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javeamigos.com | VIRGEN DEL CARMEN

BULLS TO REMAIN IN TOWN - BUT AT WHAT COST?
Tuesday 24th January 2012

javeamigos.com |  BULLS

Running with the bulls in Placeta del Convent in 2005

After the reported success of the San Sebastian bull-running event, councillors are looking at the possibility of continuing to host the controversial event close to the centre of town, starting with the festivities celebrating Jes˙s Nazareno in April. Juan OrtolÓ, the councillor responsible for Fiestas, has confirmed that his department are to propose that the Spring event is either returned to the Placeta del Convent, its traditional venue until the recent renovations in the town, or moved to the larger Plaza de la Constituciˇn.

For some six of seven years, the running of the bulls events have been held on the tarmac car-park next to Avenida Palmela to the south of the centre of town, a rather bland venue with few services to cater for the many who enjoy the fiesta spectacle. OrtolÓ reported that more than 50 'cadafales', those metal cages with the narrow vertical bars, are used to surround the temporary arena during the celebrations of Jes˙s Nazareno as well as those of the Fogueres in June, far too many to be placed in the church square similar to San Sebastißn, and thus the administration has been looking at the other two venues. Members of the council's executive board are to meet with the organising committee of the Nazareno celebrations today (Tuesday) and a decision will be made on Friday as to whether to permantly move the events back to the centre of town.

OrtolÓ has stressed that having the bull-running events back in its traditional area serves to revitalise and energise a town that has suffered much as a consequence of the roadworks and, of course, the current economic crisis. But at what cost? After all the hype about the San Sebastißn event costing nothing to tax-paying residents, there are unconfirmed reports which suggest that the Associaciˇ Cultural Taurina de XÓbia, who were responsible for organising the event and had pledged to pay for it, might not have actually have kept their promise, especially with regards to the clean-up operation at the end of the festival. Municipal cleaners spent much of the Monday morning cleaning both squares although the effects of the event are still evident on the pavement surface. A small tree was uprooted in Plaša del Baix, no doubt losing out in a battle against a rampaging heavy bull, and this has had to be replanted by the Services department. Damage has also been reported to the old church walls.

The event has divided opinion like never before. The morality of the bull-running will always be questioned and much has been written elsewhere on the subject. But what about paying for something that one doesn't actually support? Writer and broadcaster Robert Elms once wrote that the Spanish are "agnostic about the bulls ... in the same way that most English people don't care much for cricket but aren't remotely opposed to it". Yet when a town hall makes much of the fact that it is virtually penniless and then allegedly has to bear the cost of cleaning up after an event that may have attracted several hundred people to the centre of town but who actually represented a small percentage of the population, one cannot avoid questioning its overall benefits to the community. Unsurprisingly, many bar and restaurant owners have already reported that the event boosted their trade at a time when economic recovery still seems to be lurking at the end of the very long and dark tunnel. Palau, based in the church square right next to the arena, reported that they had already reached their targets for the month whilst Bar Imperial in Plaša del Baix at the very bottom of the archway steps, who also provided the novelty of a CCTV link to a television behind the bar, revealed that they had run out of stock during the weekend and had to order more from the supplier. Others venues spoke of having to turn away custom, all their tables having been reserved. The councillor responsible for Trade, Juan Luis Cardona, confirmed that such events "are required" to revitalise the area and that may well be true. But, whilst those business owners gleefully count their takings after the weekend, the coffers at the town hall may well have been further diminished for an event that appears to have little support from the vast majority of the population. But then, say others, other events such as musical recitals, plays and dancing attract a totally different group of people. And no-one complains about that.

One can understand the sentiment that these events bring together a community. As one local woman who had followed debate about the pro's and con's of bull-running told us: "Look, the bulls are neither here nor there. Outside there is a community which has come together on a Saturday night. People are smiling, laughing. What is so bad about that?"  Those who don't like it, they stay away, she added. And, to a certain extent, she had a point. There was a terrific atmosphere in the bars around the historic centre. Although in reality there could have been no more than 700-800 people either jammed into the cages, risking their lives in the arena or propping up the bars with their friends, it often felt like there were a lot more people. The music, the laughing, the cheering, it all felt very comfortable. And, no doubt, future events will be just as enjoyable to those who like to attend them and financially beneficial to local businesses and bars. But it seems not everyone will agree ...

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