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Death in the afternoon

Death can be aesthetic. No-one denies the beauty of the fireworks of war, said futurist FilippoTommaso Marinetti. All paraphernalia of war and even fields covered in bodies, like those which Michelangelo used to visit to study the facial expressions and the sinister anatomy of death, have a secret and mysterious beauty about them. Within horror there is also beauty, as we know only too well from the poetic and evil annals of Baudelaire and his pernicious flowers.


Armando Orozco Tovar


I remember when, as a boy, my father took me to the “Circo de Toros” (bull circus), as it was called in those times in Bogotá. It was a real Roman circus, which was later known as the Plaza de Toros de la Santa María.

What a name to give to this place where animals and people were tortured, in the name of the the mother of God, who would surely never have allowed it, whose name was used for a spectacle so beautiful and mortal, that revolved around shearing, beating, thrashing, nailing to a wooden cross and the thousand other tortures inflicted on her son Jesus.   Like the torture (or worse) in the Middle Ages that the church inflicted  in his name on those who did not want to follow his commands.

That Jewish merchants’ martyr could today – and there would be nothing unusual in that – be the bull of all the bullrings, because as Borges said in his poem Laberinto:  “Don’t wait for the / investment/of the bull that is a man and whose strange/ plural form adds horror to the puzzle/of the unending interwoven stone”

Even less likely is that his mother, “full of grace” would have gone to the spectacle, as do cabinet ministers of all the saints, with tickets bought for them by the district councils against the wishes of the newly appointed mayor, who in his four-year term is trying, with reason, to put a stop to this bloody spectacle.

I once made the mistake of writing poems about the art of bullfighting: El Cordobés (a famous Spanish bullfighter of the 1960s) and the internationally-known El Yiyo.

He was the sixth bullfighter to die in a Spanish bullring by tragic coincidence when he had to deal the deathblow on 27 September, 1984 in the Plaza de Pozoblanco, a town in the province of Córdoba, to the bull “Avispao”, minutes after it left Francisco Rivera “Paquirri”, another famous matador, for dead in the sand.

It was Federico, the poet murdered in the bloody arena of the Spanish Civil War, with whom I went at “five o’ clock in the afternoon”…to the bullfights of the so called “Fiesta Brava”. Ah! And through Ernest Hemingway, I witnessed the art of the cape in “Death in the Afternoon”, his famous book that is now full of dust mites in some forgotten shelf in my library.

It is about time that this Spanish culture, where the national fiesta is celebrated in honour (horror? ) of La Pelona (Death), was abolished from our hearts and minds. And much more in a country where the graves are spread throughout the Nazi-onal territory.

And if safari was ever in fashion for the gringo of “The Old Man and the Sea”, not forgetting the heads of tigers, lions or elephants which ended up on the walls of his Finca Vigía de La Habana, that time has gone, although today the Costa Rican fishermen enjoy themselves killing off the sharks from the Colombian Pacific for their fins, in the same way poachers still do for rhinos in Africa hiding the horns in the undergrowth as supposedly aphrodisiac trophies.

Just as with this tale of the “aphrodisiac” (Aphrodisiac, coming from Africa?) wanting to please the impotent millionaires of the world, the same goes for the local struggle with the same old officials.

The death of bulls, the plumed horses and the bullfighters being a sight to behold, with their horns and impaled with swords without mercy on all sides of the person and the animal.

It is time for the end of this tradition of cocks fighting mercilessly, of dogs devouring each other in clandestine houses and of bulls stabbed multiple times in front of everyone with “Oles!” and Franco-style applause without anyone from above in the government expressing anything different from a new pedagogy of love and respect for everything that exists.

It is annoying that a new” a newly-elected mayor dares to cause a stir about the cultural horror that is defended with tooth and nail by a member of parliament with trivial arguments?

Luis Cardoza y Aragón, the great Guatemalan poet, talks of Bogotá days before the “Bogotazo”(when over 3,000 people died following the assassination of a politician in 1948),, and in his memoirs remembers the barbarity of the “Circo de toros”, a place where the dictator Gurropín (grandfather of San-Muelos) murdered and caused the disappearance of hundreds of people for the sole reason that they booed  at his daughter on a holiday Sunday:

“Fury is present in the Colombian nation. On my first stay in 1947, I made it into the country during a semblance of peace. Shortly before the start of the Ninth Panamerican Conference, in the Plaza de Toros de Santa María in Bogotá, the crowds came down from the stands and a thousand piranhas lynched a meek bull that had been jabbed several times by the clumsy matador.

Complaints about the injured animal’s stab wounds, dagger wounds and kicks reverberated in the arena until it drew its last breath. They gouged out its eyes, cut off its testicles, its tail and its ears.  A large bloodstain was left under the little bull in the bullring…In that moment I thought that the country was punishing itself by the beast it cut to pieces.

Alegría de Pío, January 25,  2012
(Translated by Victoria Nicholls – Email: – Photos: Pixabay

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