A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

The Unexpected Matador Hero

“I don’t have the ‘cojones’ for this,” said 22-year-old matador Christian Hernandez on TV, after twice dropping his red cape and fleeing the infamous bullring at the Plaza de Mexico.

The crowd had booed him. Officials had taunted him into getting back in the ring — which he did, only to make another mad dash over the wall when the bull charged again.

“Coward!” roared the crowd. But nothing and no one could persuade the now-ex-bullfighter to go get in there with the bull a third time.

A few months earlier, Hernandez had been gored in the leg.

No doubt he’d also seen the horrifying photos of a bullfight in Madrid, Spain on May 21, where an experienced matador, almost twice Hernandez’s age, had stumbled backwards onto the sand as the half-ton bull tore into him. The bull’s horn went straight through the throat of Julio Aparicio and came out through his mouth. Aparicio was rushed into surgery.

(None of the three bulls, of course, survived.)

Young Christian Hernandez has escaped with his life intact, if not his dignity. Except, what’s dignified about bullfighting? Isn’t it really time to put an end to this “sport” – or “art form” or whatever those people call it? Is it really any different from what went on at the Coliseum in ancient Rome? Gladiators versus lions and tigers … matadors versus bulls … seems like the same thing.

More than 180,000 Spaniards in Barcelona and the surrounding Catalonia region have already signed a petition calling for a complete ban on the tradition, forcing a parliamentary debate. That could make Catalonia the first region in mainland Spain to ban bullfighting – a serious nail in the coffin of this “cultural tradition.”

In 2007, Spain’s public television dropped live bullfighting from its schedule, reportedly because it was too bloody for children.

And in 2009, a Gallup poll in southern Spain found that three-quarters of those surveyed oppose bullfighting.

The ruling classes in Rome spoke of keeping the masses placated and compliant with “bread and circuses.” And the crowd in Mexico City had paid money to watch the ritualistic slaying of a magnificent animal, just like in the Coliseum. They didn’t get their money’s worth. And worse yet, Hernandez may well have just hammered another small nail into the coffin of a “cultural tradition” we could all do without.

If that’s the case, young Christian Hernandez will have turned out to be something of a hero.