When I first arrived to Ecuador my host dad said it was great luck that I am here the fall semester, for I will be able to experience Fiestas de Quito November 26-December 6. Fiestas de Quito are ten consecutive days celebrating Quito’s foundation. My host parents informed me that mostly there is lots of drinking, but one can also find art exhibits, traditional dances in the historic district, concerts and the main event: bull fighting. Bull fighting in Ecuador has been a tradition since before 1576. There are five latinamerican countries that have bull fights, and Ecuador is the third most active. There are 25 permanent bull fighting stadiums, 32 ranches, and 2 schools, all dedicated to bull fighting. The bull fight in Quito takes place in el Plaza Monumental, which happens to be about five blocks down from where I live. Fiestas de Quito are the most traditional and most important bull fights in all of the Americas. They are a celebration of the colonial Ecuadorian identity, a combination of the local culture and Spanish tradition.
Many people are against bull fighting. I have experienced several small protests against it in the cities of Cuenca and Quito. Last May, a referendum was passed stating that the bull can no longer be killed in the ring in view of the public. Unfortunately, this means the bull still dies, and the most important part and climax of the bull fight is taken out of this dance of death. Many famous matadors chose not to participate in the Quito bull fights because of this change. Some say that the bull fights are more about money and less about tradition. Also, that it is just an event for the rich, politicians and famous to parade around. Others state that it is a tradition that Ecuador has been a part of for over three centuries. One figure states that it is a major way of life for over 97,000 families, and if it dies out, so will their livelihoods.
Whatever the future may bring the bull fights were still on this year in Quito. Many attended. I did not, but did see some neat pictures from friends who were there.
Rebecca Larson is studying abroad at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Quito, Ecuador.