When I first saw this picture in an online newspaper I felt very disturbed. Some bull-fight fans in Spain and across the world may even find it beautiful but there is something very wrong in the action it portraits. I still think this is a remarkable shot and I’m not blaming the photographer for the sense of nausea I felt watching it.
Whoever took this picture for the Associated Press actually managed to capture the entire wrongness of what was happening that day in a Mexican “plaza de toros” even before the worst almost occurred.
The bleeding beast that caught my attention at first could easily trigger a debate on animals’ rights and the need to ban a barbaric tradition such as the “corrida” from Spain and some Latin American countries. But this is not a topic to be addressed on a platform focused on the developing world.
After feeling sick for the poor dying bull in the picture, though, I noticed something else. The brave and magnificent “torero” who was proudly facing the exhausted animal was actually a little boy.
Before even thinking that this innocent child, who certainly had only a limited understanding of what he was doing, was risking his life for the entertainment of a cheering crowd, I felt deeply sorry for him for a different reason.
This 12-year old was staring at a dying animal whom he was killing just to give people a good show. He was prepared to torture him even further and showed no sense of mercy or guilt. Michelito – this is how his fans call him – was obviously used to such cold-heartedness. He started killing bulls only a few years after he learned to walk and this is why people like him so much, he knows it very well. He also knows his dad is so proud of him for being so brave.
Michel Lagravère senior, a bull-fighter himself, as well as the director of a bull-fighting school in Mérida, Yucatan, does not seem to care about the effects that his young son’s cruelty and insensitiveness will have on the development of the kid’s personality. He doesn’t even seem to care about the actual risks the boy faces every time he enters an arena.
Michelito’s mother, on the other hand, did say something about it. “As a mother, I never stop suffering,” she announced two years ago in an interview with Spanish news agency EFE. “I cannot get used to it and I never will.”
The young torero’s loving mother was right to be worried, given the outcome of Michelito’s latest and most important fight some days ago in the biggest arena he could ever dream of.
Yes, what children and animal rights activists across the world had been fearing since the baby torero started performing at the age of ten did happen in the Plaza Mexico arena in Mexico City. After killing a bull, the “torerito” slipped and got wounded by a “novillo”, a young bull, who stepped on the boy’s head.
Luckily, Michelito was not seriously injured. He could declare he was satisfied with his performance and his father could once again tell journalists how proud he was of his son.
I live in Spain but I never went to a bull-fight. I saw one on TV once and I remember being extremely disturbed by the sight of children cheering for the torero and calling for him to kill the bull and cut off his ear as a trophy.
I thought if I had children I would never take them to such a violent show, letting alone making them take part in it.
Even if I were a bad mother and wanted my kid to perform as a torero in a real corrida, though, I don’t think this would be allowed in any country in Europe or wherever children’s rights are protected by state laws.
Michelito’s father knows it very well, and he is apparently lucky to have moved to Mexico from France, his home country, where his son’s performances were forbidden two years ago by the authorities.
Mr. Lagravère was really disappointed when the mayor of Fontvieille, a Provencal town where Michelito was expected to perform during his 2-month French tour, banned the show. It was considered as dangerous for the kid even if he would only face bulls up to 2 years of age and with no killings involved. This was although Michelito was used to facing older bulls and finishing them when he performed in Latin America, where laws are a bit more permissive and the torercito has thousands of supporters in several countries.
In Barcelona, where I live, corridas are not exactly a local tradition, but it took years for activists to get the support they needed in order to submit a law proposal for their banning to the Catalan parliament.
In other Spanish regions, a law forbidding corridas would probably generate more protests that the one banning smoke from public places, which still has to be enforced.
Still, Michelito could not perform here, as laws do not allow kids under the age of 16 to take part in such shows.
There are several forms of violence and child exploitation that are carried out unnoticed in many European countries, but apparently not as blatantly and shamelessly as in Michelito’s case. It is a sad consideration and it may sound a bit provocative, but maybe this kid would have had a better life and become a healthier and more balanced adult had his father stayed in France.