Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Under Attack: Fornalutx

The village of Fornalutx in the Tramuntana is a pretty place, and there are those who will say that it is Mallorca's prettiest. This has been officially recognised. The Fomento del Turismo (Mallorca Tourist Board) once awarded it the silver plaque for the defence and maintenance of the village. The national tourism ministry also gave it an award, as did GOB, the environmental group. Yes, it's a pretty place, but with an ugly side.

According to the figure for 2015, Fornalutx has a population of 703. This small settlement of people has much to be proud of. However, in September 2013, as an example, more than 21,000 people signed a petition directed at something which they considered the population of the village should not be proud of. At the weekend, some 250 people defended it.

The animal-rights group AnimaNaturalis recently posted a video onto its Facebook page. "This is exactly what the supporters of bull events do not want recording." It shows the commencement of the "correbou", the bull-run. The bull, with ropes tied to both horns, jumps, turns over, gets up, turns over. The slow-motion writhing and leaping ceases as the run gets underway, the bull pursued by a number of fiesta revellers.

The 250 may all have been from Fornalutx. If so, then over a third of the village turned out in defence of the correbou. This defence has official support. The town hall has made clear that it disagrees with the correbou's inclusion in the government's amendment of the 1992 animal protection law. Under this, any event in which an animal suffers will be outlawed. This official support extends to PSOE. The party in the village is likely to split from the regional party, one of the sponsors of the amendment.

The more than 21,000 who signed the 2013 petition quite clearly didn't all live in Fornalutx. How many residents of the village might have signed? How many residents of the village are themselves opposed to the correbou? There have to be some, but ... . It was once explained to me, apropos the bullfight in Alcudia, that it was awkward for the Mallorcan population to show their opposition. There were different reasons why. It is now becoming less awkward. Opinion has turned. Only Muro, it might be said, is as obstinate as a bull itself in clinging steadfastly to its "tradition". In the village of Fornalutx, though; well, it is a small place.

In 2010, Guardia Civil officers needed to draw batons. A protest by AnimaNaturalis, staged in the centre of the village, drew considerable opposition, some of it violent. The photographic evidence of this was revealing. It was not only the older population who were angered by the protest. So were the young. Assuming they were all from Fornalutx.

There is a great deal of evidence - photographic, video - of the bull-run. Some of it can seem surprising. Not all those looking on are locals. There are tourists as well. Cameras and smartphones at the ready. What do they see? Tradition, culture, the highlight of the village's summer fiesta. They also see an animal being tormented. In an odd sense, there is more to despise about the correbou than the bullfight. There are those, and one has to take their word, who profess respect, even love for the bulls that they slaughter in the bullring. This stems perhaps from the old honour of the bullfight: honour for both parties - the slayer and the slain. The correbou has none of this. Or appears not to. A bull is run for the sheer hell of it. Where's the respect or the love?

The feelings of the whole village are not being taken into consideration, has said the mayor, Antoni Aguiló. The whole village? All 703 of them? The weight of villager support, even if it may not be total, is nevertheless great. In the face of legislative prohibition, in the face of the numbers of those signing petitions which overwhelm the numbers in this small village, in the face of condemnation and the campaigning, the villagers defend their right to the correbou. It is part of village identity, part of being a "fornalutxenc". If your identity is threatened, would you not seek to defend it? Or does the symbolism, the manifestation of this identity disqualify the right to a defence?

The same line of argument can be made for the so-called national party of the bullfight. The nation's identity is under attack, it will be argued. But this is an identity that is clearly not felt by many (a majority even), while the comparison is invalidated by scale. This is a small village clinging to a relic of its past, a definition. A closing of ranks is understandable.

The ban will surely apply to the correbou. It will produce cheers and jeers in unequal measure. Fornalutx will still be pretty.

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