In Support Of The True Fiesta Nacional

One of Spain's greatest and oldest cultural traditions is in danger of dying out completely because of EU legislation. The European laws, designed to protect citizens' 'liberty' were introduced without a moment's thought about the impact they'd have on this crucial feature of Spanish culture. I am, of course, talking about Spain's true Fiesta Nacional.

Ever since the 1st century BCE, Spaniards have enjoyed the spectacle of gladiators locked in combat, fighting until one (or ideally all) of them dies a heroic death. Indeed, recent evidence proves that a Spaniard was himself the very bravest of Rome's gladiators – he killed a nasty emperor and temporarily saved the empire from something.

But all this is now under threat – because of a bunch of killjoy lawmakers obsessed by destroying Spanish culture. EU legislators introduced so called 'human rights legislation' many years ago, but it is these laws that might now be used to stop us from enjoying one of the great cultural pursuits this country has to offer. And the sad thing is that this could all be prevented if the do-gooders understood that live gladiator fights aren't really about men killing each other for the enjoyment of a crowd of baying monsters. You see, gladiator fighting is about so much more than that.

For those who haven't yet had a chance to enjoy the spectacle of a gladiator fight, I'm going to explain a little of what makes it so special. First of all, there's the amphitheatre it's held in: these grand stadia have their roots in Roman architecture and are designed so that wherever a viewer sits, they can see the action. Amphitheatres used to litter Spanish cities like discarded sunflower seed shells, but now only a few remain. It's worth remembering that Barcelona had loads of the places, while Madrid (which didn't exist when the Romans occupied Spain) had none. Why that's worth remembering, I'm not sure… but remember it, OK?

Next up is the sense of ceremony that surrounds the whole event. The gladiators are held in a sort of pen just before they're released into the arena, and when they appear in their beautiful costumes, you can almost believe you're watching ballet rather than deadly combat. Actually, I'm not sure about that: ballet exists as a way of interpreting violence, passion and the human experience by way of dance. Gladiatorial combat interprets violence by way of goading men to murder each other. But it's still quite full of movement, I suppose.

The deaths, while certainly not the focus of gladiatorial combat, are really cool! Some of the best gladiators can make a rival's suffering defence last for up to an hour, drawing the process of killing their opponent (which is not the main focus of the fight at all) into what seems like a true fight between equals. Of course, the truth is that the professional gladiators always win because their competitors, dumb and useless beasts that they are, are often drugged, underfed and tortured prior to the main event. Well, you wouldn't want the star to die, would you?! Anyway, the death isn't even the most important bit.

The most important bit is… everything. Of course, everything is geared in a way that it climaxes in the death… but that doesn't mean it's just about killing. You can buy an ice cream from the little man who sells them… and if he stands in the way of a good killing, just tell him to get the fuck out of the way. Because the death, while not the most important bit, is a moment so wholly Spanish – so ancient and lovely – that you really shouldn't miss it. Yes, the death is not the most important part of the gladiator fight. It's the killing.

Oh and, before you bring it up, no we really don't see the killing as cruel. I mean, most of these guys are losers and criminals anyway. Sure, they're doomed to die terrified but imagine how they'd feel if they caught lung cancer from second hand smoke. That'd be a much worse way to go… so you see, they're really the lucky ones.

Can we really afford to lose this ancient, lovely and cool spectacle? To me, it seems self-evident that gladiatorial combat is above silly modern notions like 'humanity' or 'law'. Clearly, amendments should be made to this legislation to ensure that future generations can enjoy the killing with their own eyes? As has been pointed out, these fights exist: it's up to the opponents of gladiators killing each other to prove why it's suddenly wrong.

So, dear reader, I call on you to join with me in defence of this noble pursuit. Together, we can preserve barbarity in these perplexing times.

11 thoughts on “In Support Of The True Fiesta Nacional

  1. What about the gladiatorial combats in France, or in South America? What about Hemingway? What about the combats in Portugal where, instead of killing each other, they put little poofy ribbons in each other's hair?
    Honestly, it's a bit like the films in Castellano that everyone in your part of the world enjoys seeing. You can't stamp out everything you think is furrin just because the nat-zis think so!

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  2. @Lenox – I probably should have mentioned that I consider this brave and noble Spanish tradition to actually have its origins in Catalonia (like most good Spanish things do). So actually, it's also a question of protecting Catalan culture.

    Happy now? ;-)

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  3. @Lenox – don't worry. I'm not sure but maybe I should have better emphasises that the aim of the post was the 'artform' itself rather than its 'Spanishness'.

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  4. I won't go to bull fights anymore…
    They 'charge' too much!

    Only joking but I don't go anyway. Despite the fact that the prolonged torture and murder of animals is actually just art, I still can't get into it.

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