Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Bullrings Of Mallorca

A poster from September 1932 announces a charity event in aid of the Pollensa hospice. The event is a bullfight. It is to be staged in the bullring in Puerto Pollensa. Apart from the fact that a drawing of a matador appears to show the matador without a head (perhaps the bull had got to him in a particularly unpleasant fashion), the poster is interesting because there is no longer a bullring in Puerto Pollensa, but one guesses, from the relative grandness of the occasion that the poster refers to, that this had to have been a fairly substantial arena. The question is, and I don't have the answer, where was it?

There was another bullring in Pollensa. In the old town itself. It now forms part of the grounds of a property that would doubtless cost a pretty penny or several. It wasn't so far from the Plaça Major, but it, like the bullring in the port, disappeared years ago. From what can be made out, maybe the port's bullring was the more important of the two. It's hard to say.

One understands that there are quite a number of bullrings in Spain which have disappeared over the years, but research into those which may have existed in Mallorca has proved fruitless. Maybe there were others. Maybe there weren't. If anyone knows, my curiosity would be grateful for any information. What is known and is well chronicled is the history of the five bullrings that still exist - those in Palma, Inca, Alcúdia, Muro and Felanitx.

Of these five, the Felanitx one, La Macarena, has fallen into a pretty poor state. It has been closed for safety reasons since 2009. Its owner wishes to sell it but no one seems interested in buying it. It is exactly one hundred years old this year, there having been a previous bullring that had opened in 1891.

Palma has had a bullring since 1865. Its replacement, the Coliseum, staged its inaugural bullfight on 21 July, 1929. The desire for a replacement had existed for a good number of years before the Coliseum opened but the First World War put any new project on the back-burner, as did opposition from Palma town hall for several years in the 1920s. When the go-ahead was given, in 1928, the new bullring took only nine months to be built, an astonishingly short period of time. All was ready for the inauguration, and the anticipation was apparently enormous. Twenty trams that operated what was a new route to the bullring were packed. Practically every car that was registered in Mallorca was seemingly parked nearby.

The following Sunday, the action switched to Inca and to an occurrence which shocked the whole of Mallorca. Reports suggest that the shocked population all turned out to see the coffin of Angel Celdrán Carratalá being placed on a ship in Palma to take his body back to his native Alicante. He had received fatal wounds to his stomach from the bull.

Inca's bullring is older than Palma's. It was inaugurated in September 1910. The local rail service put on special trains to bring people in from Palma. Inca, so it would seem, had never experienced anything quite like this. The streets were crowded from early in the morning. The bars were packed. Sobrassada, botifarrones, tortillas were gorged. Wine was drunk in great volume.

Another bullring, Alcúdia's, is older than Inca's. It dates from 1892. Muro's, "La Monumental", was built on the site of a quarry and completed in 1918. It is the largest in terms of numbers of spectators apart from Palma's Coliseum.

Looking back at reports of the inaugurations of the Inca and Palma bullrings, one is struck by how popular the bullfights were. From a contemporary perspective, it might seem shocking. But it wasn't as though there was total support. Much of the opposition came from the so-called Generación del 98, which drew its name from the calamitous events of 1898 when Spain lost the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico and Cuba. The bullfight was viewed as evidence of Spain's backwardness. The writer and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo said that he was disgusted by the bullfight.

Society's attitudes have clearly changed markedly since the days when Inca could be bursting at the seams with excited bullfight-goers. While the legitimacy of the bullfight as part of Spain's patrimony is rightly brought into question, there is the separate patrimony of the architectural legacy that goes with it. The Coliseum, for example, built so rapidly from Mallorcan stone and in a neo-classical style, should not be devalued because of what occurs behind that stone. Likewise, La Macarena deserves to be preserved, while the memories of the lost bullrings need to be reactivated, if only to emphasise just how much attitudes have changed.

Note: Many thanks indeed to Lyn at the forum for letting me know that the Puerto Pollensa bullring had been discussed some years ago on the forum and that its location was placed as having been near to what is now the Eroski roundabout (the one with the Canadair sculpture).

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