Mérida, Yucatán — A controversial and bloody tradition returns to the Mérida Bullring when bullfighting season starts Sunday.
Seven bulls from La Antigua cattle range were shipped to the bullring’s corrals, but only five were authorized by the judge, Ulises Zapata León, who was accompanied by veterinarian Felipe Alcocer and Alberto Hagar Goff, of Toros Yucatán.
The two rejected specimens will be replaced by more suitable bulls, they said.
The first run of the season will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Plaza de Toros. Mexican bullfighters Gerardo Adame and Diego Silveti will be accompanied by the Spanish lancer Andy Cartagena, who fights the bull on horseback.
All the bulls in the ring weigh over 1,000 pounds and will be on public view in the plaza’s corrals.
Despite laws banning the exploitation of animals in circuses and bullrings, bullfights — which end with the death of the bull — are legal and remain one of the oldest traditions in Mexico.
The matador, or bullfighter, ultimately has one job: kill the bull by placing a sword in a specific area between the animal’s shoulders. The sport is legal in only a few countries besides Mexico, including Spain, France, Portugal, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador.
Sunday’s event follows the most common bullfighting format, which starts with a ceremonial parade. Matadors with colorful capes agitate and manipulate five or six bulls over the course of about two and a half hours.
Once the matador has taken sufficient control of the bull, he and his lancers, on horseback, work to injure the bull and assess its response. In the end, however, the matador and bull face each other one on one until the animal is ultimately killed.
Mexico twice previously outlawed bullfighting, and three states today — Sonora, Guerrero and Coahuila — have banned it. Enough people find the tradition cruel to make anti-bullfighting protests commonplace. In February, activists disrupted a run by jumping into the ring.
Sources: Sipse, USA Today