I really had no idea what to expect when I got back to Spain but I was sort of hoping that the World Cup festivities would still be going on just so I could engage in the fun a little. You know, maybe thinking that someone out there in Madrid would have paused for a moment and had the sensitivity to say, “Hey wait a second. You know Brian’s not around. The poor guy year in and year out misses these moments because he works his ass off to ensure that future citizens of this country learn English better, even if it means sacrificing watching Spain win the big game. What the hell. That’s what I call dedication. Why don’t we wait for a few weeks for him to get back and we can really crank up the party?” Cool, don’t you think?
Yeah, right. Not a soul was waiting for me. Not a red and yellow banner waving frenetically as I passed through those sliding doors of Spanish customs. No car service ready to pick me up and whisk me away to the nearest fiesta. No, there wasn’t a sign to be found anywhere. Nary a vestige of victory. In those sparse two weeks since the world, the entire world, fixed its eyes on this suffering country, the mood had swung from euphora beyond limits to business as usual, as if this country won this tournament every other year.
No, what real had the country riveted was the Catalan (the region where Barcelona is) parliament’s decision to abolish bullfighting in that region.
Say what? Bullfighting restricted in certain parts of Spain? Wasn’t this a favorite all over the country? I know there remains a tendency to expect to find matadors and flamenco dancers on every street corner in the land, and God knows I have done my part to erradicate that misconception, but what can I do when even Woody Allen makes us think that Spanish guitar playing is a natural part of the Catalonia and Asturias in the north.
Yeah, right. You try to find a show in Oviedo and see how long it takes for you to get laughed out of town.
For years now, despite bullfighting’s return to popularity over the past twenty years, in part thanks to toreros like José Tomás who have actually put their lives on the line and given the animal a fighting chance to kill its opponent, there has been a slow but stubbornly determined movement crying out for its prohibition. And it is beginning to take effect. In regions like Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, the Basque Country and Catalonia, apart from sporadic examples, the tradition hardly exists.
Catalans have been actually split down the middle on the issue because this has been a strong and deeply-rooted tradition in this region for decades; a tradition that extends even into southern France. Still many feel that this is an custom imported from other parts of Spain and that the Catalans should have nothing to do with it. And the street consensus is that today’s vote has represented yet another chance for the region with a healthy independence movement to further separate itself from Spain.
“How could they do that?” Many of you have just asked. Spain has just won the World Cup! Everyone should be united and happy forever and ever. That’s what soccer does, for the love of God.
Yeah, right. Weeks after Iniesta pumped the ball past the keeper and into the net and lifted this country into a state of immortality so deeply sought after for decades, the bliss of reunion has worn off, the renewed nuptial vows taken back, and the honeymoon has been canceled early. It’s back to business.