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Tijuana’s Last Days Of Bullfighting


by Gussy Geller



In the vibrant city of Tijuana, Mexico, a cultural tradition that spans centuries is coming to an end. Bullfighting, once a prominent and celebrated event in Tijuana, is now facing its last days. This ancient spectacle, rooted in Spanish tradition, has long been a source of controversy and fascination, attracting both avid supporters and vehement opponents.


As the final matadors step into the ring, the streets of Tijuana echo with a mix of nostalgia and anticipation. The fate of bullfighting hangs in the balance, as the city grapples with the question of whether this age-old tradition can adapt to the evolving values and sensitivities of modern society.


While bullfighting has its roots in Spain, it found its way to Mexico in the 16th century during the Spanish colonization. Over time, it evolved into a significant aspect of Mexican culture, captivating crowds with its display of bravery, skill, and spectacle. Tijuana, as a border city with a rich cultural melting pot, embraced this tradition and became known for its passionate bullfighting events.


However, in recent years, the popularity of bullfighting has waned in Tijuana. A combination of factors, including shifting cultural attitudes, animal rights concerns, and the rise of alternative forms of entertainment, has contributed to the decline. As a result, Tijuana is witnessing the last chapters of this controversial tradition, leaving supporters and critics alike reflecting on its historical significance and future.


This article will delve into the history of bullfighting in Tijuana, explore its evolution over time, examine the current state of the tradition, and assess the controversies surrounding it. Additionally, we will consider the factors contributing to its decline and ponder the future of bullfighting in the city.


Join us as we take a journey into the last days of bullfighting in Tijuana, exploring the past, present, and uncertain future of this deeply ingrained cultural phenomenon.


History of Bullfighting in Tijuana

Bullfighting has a long and storied history in Tijuana, dating back to the early 20th century. The tradition was introduced to the border city by Spanish immigrants who sought to preserve their cultural heritage in a new land.


In 1924, the inaugural bullfight took place in Tijuana’s Plaza Monumental, a grand bullring that would become synonymous with the city’s bullfighting legacy. The event was a resounding success, drawing thousands of spectators and solidifying Tijuana’s reputation as a hub for bullfighting.


Throughout the following decades, Tijuana’s bullfighting scene thrived, attracting renowned matadors from both Mexico and Spain. It became a major cultural attraction, luring tourists and locals alike with its mesmerizing displays of bravery, artistry, and raw emotion.


One of the defining moments in Tijuana’s bullfighting history came in 1960 when renowned Spanish matador Antonio Ordoñez faced off against his Mexican rival, Luis Procuna, in the legendary “Mano a Mano” (Hand to Hand) bullfight. This historic event captivated the world, solidifying Tijuana’s place on the international bullfighting map.


Over the years, Tijuana’s bullrings witnessed countless fierce battles between matadors and bulls, each performance a dance between life and death. The skill, precision, and fearlessness displayed by the matadors left spectators in awe, while the majestic power and bravery of the bulls captured the essence of the event.


However, as the years passed, the popularity of bullfighting began to decline. Changing societal values and increased awareness about animal rights brought about a shift in public opinion. Critics argued that the tradition was inherently cruel and outdated, calling for its abolition.


Despite the criticisms, bullfighting continued to hold a significant place in the hearts of many Tijuana residents who viewed it as an integral part of their cultural heritage. Nevertheless, attendance numbers dwindled, and the city started to face the reality that bullfighting was slowly fading away.


Evolution of Bullfighting in Tijuana

Throughout its history, bullfighting in Tijuana has undergone significant changes and adaptations, reflecting the evolving tastes and sensitivities of both its audience and society as a whole.


Initially, bullfighting in Tijuana closely followed the traditional Spanish style, with elaborate costumes, dramatic rituals, and a strict adherence to the rules and conventions of the sport. However, as the city grew and became more influenced by American culture, elements of showmanship and spectacle found their way into Tijuana’s bullfighting events.


In the mid-20th century, Tijuana experienced a wave of innovation in bullfighting, with matadors incorporating daring acrobatics, theatrical performances, and crowd-pleasing tricks into their routines. These innovations aimed to appeal to a broader audience and inject new life into the tradition.


One notable figure in the evolution of bullfighting in Tijuana was Rodolfo Gaona, a Mexican matador known for his flamboyant style and showmanship. Gaona introduced new moves and techniques, captivating crowds with his daring stunts and charismatic stage presence.


Furthermore, Tijuana became a hub for international bullfighting competitions, attracting renowned matadors from around the world. This international influence led to the blending of styles and techniques, enriching the bullfighting experience in Tijuana with diverse perspectives and skills.


Bullfighting in Tijuana also witnessed a shift towards a more accessible and inclusive approach. Bullfighting schools were established, providing training and opportunities for aspiring young matadors. This allowed a new generation to enter the scene and inject fresh ideas and energy into the sport.


Moreover, the advent of television and other media platforms brought bullfighting into people’s homes, allowing a wider audience to witness the artistry and drama of the sport. However, this increased exposure also brought with it heightened scrutiny and criticism from those opposed to bullfighting.


As the years went by, efforts were made to make bullfighting more humane and safer for the animals involved. Stricter regulations were implemented, ensuring that the bulls were well-treated and that unnecessary suffering was minimized.


Despite these efforts to modernize and adapt, the decline in the popularity of bullfighting persisted. The changing attitudes towards animal rights and a growing awareness of alternative forms of entertainment resulted in a dwindling interest in this traditional spectacle.


Today, the evolution of bullfighting in Tijuana continues as the city grapples with finding a balance between preserving tradition and meeting the demands of a more socially conscious society. 

Current State of Bullfighting in Tijuana

In recent years, the once-thriving bullfighting scene in Tijuana has experienced a significant decline. The tradition that was once a cultural cornerstone now finds itself on the fringe, struggling to attract both participants and spectators.


Attendance at bullfights has dwindled, with fewer people showing interest in the events. The bullrings, once filled with excited and passionate fans, now often sit empty or operate at a fraction of their capacity. This decline in attendance has had a direct impact on the financial viability of bullfighting in the city.


The waning popularity of bullfighting can be attributed to various factors. Changing cultural attitudes towards the treatment of animals have played a significant role, with increasing concerns about the ethical implications of using animals for entertainment. Activist groups have been vocal in their opposition to bullfighting, organizing protests and advocating for a ban on the practice.


Moreover, there has been a shift in public preferences for alternative forms of entertainment. Modern society offers a multitude of choices, such as sporting events, concerts, and cultural festivals, which compete for people’s time and attention. The allure of these alternative options has taken a toll on the once-dominant bullfighting industry.


Another challenge facing bullfighting in Tijuana is the declining appeal to younger generations. The tradition, viewed by many as archaic and inhumane, struggles to resonate with younger demographics who prioritize animal welfare and hold different values compared to previous generations.


Despite these challenges, there are still passionate supporters of bullfighting in Tijuana who believe in preserving the tradition and consider it an integral part of their cultural heritage. They argue that bullfighting is more than just a sport – it is an art form that symbolizes courage, skill, and the eternal struggle between man and beast.


To adapt to the changing landscape, efforts have been made to modernize and rebrand bullfighting in Tijuana. Some have proposed incorporating educational components, highlighting the cultural and historical significance of the tradition, in order to appeal to a broader audience. Others have suggested introducing alternative forms of bullfighting, such as non-lethal versions that focus on the skill and artistry of the matadors without causing harm to the animals.


Despite these efforts, there is no denying that bullfighting in Tijuana is facing an uphill battle to remain relevant in a society that increasingly questions its morality and necessity. Only time will tell what the future holds for this controversial tradition in the city.


Factors Contributing to the Decline of Bullfighting in Tijuana

The decline of bullfighting in Tijuana can be attributed to a combination of factors that have gradually eroded its popularity and support. These factors reflect changing societal values, evolving cultural attitudes, and advancements in entertainment options.


One of the primary factors contributing to the decline of bullfighting in Tijuana is the growing concern for animal rights and welfare. As public awareness of animal cruelty has increased, many individuals and organizations have voiced opposition to the use of animals in entertainment, viewing bullfighting as a barbaric and inhumane practice. These sentiments have influenced public perception and led to a decline in support for the tradition.


Additionally, the rise of alternative forms of entertainment has impacted the popularity of bullfighting. With the advent of modern technology and access to diverse entertainment options, people now have more choices when it comes to how they spend their leisure time. Sporting events, concerts, and cultural festivals have gained traction, drawing audiences away from the traditional bullfighting spectacle.


Changing cultural norms and shifting demographics also play a role in the decline. Younger generations, in particular, are less inclined to support or participate in bullfighting due to differing values and attitudes. Concerns for animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and a desire for non-violent forms of entertainment have influenced their perspectives, making bullfighting less appealing to this demographic.


In recent years, Tijuana has witnessed an increase in awareness and activism surrounding the treatment of animals. Animal rights organizations have gained momentum, organizing protests and campaigns aimed at pressuring authorities to ban or heavily regulate bullfighting. The resulting negative publicity and public discourse have further contributed to the decline of the tradition.


Economic factors have also impacted bullfighting in Tijuana. As attendance declines, revenues generated from ticket sales, concessions, and sponsorships diminish, making it economically challenging to sustain the sport. This financial strain has led to the closure of bullrings and a reduction in the number of bullfighting events held in the city.


While these factors have contributed to the decline, it is important to acknowledge that there are still individuals and communities who staunchly support bullfighting and view it as an important part of their cultural heritage. However, the overall societal shift towards more compassionate treatment of animals and the availability of alternative forms of entertainment have reshaped the perception of bullfighting and pose significant challenges to its future in Tijuana.


Controversies Surrounding Bullfighting in Tijuana

Bullfighting has long been a subject of intense controversy, both in Tijuana and globally. The tradition has faced significant opposition from animal rights activists, ethical concerns, and changing societal values. The controversies surrounding bullfighting in Tijuana reflect larger debates about the treatment of animals and the relevance of cultural practices in modern times.


One of the primary controversies surrounding bullfighting is the ethical dilemma it presents. Critics argue that the sport is inherently cruel, as it involves the deliberate infliction of pain and suffering upon the bull. The prolonged agonizing death of the bull, often cheered on by the crowd, is seen as a form of entertainment that goes against the principles of compassion and empathy towards animals.


Animal rights activists contend that bullfighting is a bloodsport that exploits and mistreats animals for the sake of spectacle and tradition. They argue that in a more civilized society, such practices should be abandoned in favor of more humane forms of entertainment that do not involve animal cruelty.


Moreover, concerns are raised about the welfare of the bulls themselves. Critics argue that the breeding, raising, and training of the bulls in conditions that restrict their natural behaviors and subject them to stress and harm is an inherent violation of their rights and well-being.


The controversial treatment of horses in bullfighting is another aspect that draws criticism. Horses are commonly used by matadors to navigate the arena and engage with the bull. However, they are often subjected to significant risk and injury, with limited protection or regard for their welfare. This aspect of the tradition raises further ethical concerns.


Cultural relativism comes into play when discussing the controversies surrounding bullfighting. Supporters argue that bullfighting is a deeply rooted tradition with historical and cultural significance, and should be respected as such. They maintain that it is an art form that showcases skill, bravery, and the cultural heritage of Tijuana and Mexico.


Efforts to find a middle ground have resulted in calls for reforms within bullfighting. Some advocate for the implementation of stricter regulations to ensure the ethical treatment of animals, minimizing unnecessary suffering. Others propose alternatives such as non-lethal versions of bullfighting, focusing solely on the artistic and technical aspects without causing harm to the animals.


Ultimately, the controversies surrounding bullfighting in Tijuana reflect the broader debates about the ethics of using animals for entertainment purposes and the clash between tradition and evolving societal values. As Tijuana grapples with the future of bullfighting, finding a resolution that respects cultural heritage while addressing concerns for animal welfare remains a challenging task.


The Future of Bullfighting in Tijuana

The future of bullfighting in Tijuana hangs in the balance, as the tradition confronts significant challenges and shifting societal attitudes. While the declining popularity and controversies surrounding the sport could suggest a bleak outlook, the future of bullfighting in Tijuana remains uncertain, with potential paths for adaptation and change.


One possible future for bullfighting in Tijuana is its gradual decline and eventual disappearance. As public sentiment continues to shift towards greater concern for animal welfare, the tradition may struggle to find support and maintain its relevance. This scenario would likely see a gradual decline in the number of bullfights held in Tijuana, possibly leading to the eventual closure of bullrings and the discontinuation of the practice.


However, proponents of bullfighting in Tijuana are actively working to find ways to revitalize and sustain the tradition. They argue that bullfighting can adapt and evolve to address the ethical concerns and changing societal values. Some propose embracing non-lethal forms of bullfighting that focus solely on the skill and artistry of the matadors, without causing harm to the animals. This approach could potentially make bullfighting more palatable to a wider audience and help bridge the gap between tradition and modern sensibilities.


Another possible future for bullfighting in Tijuana is a niche resurgence that appeals to a specific segment of the population. While the overall popularity may continue to decline, there may still be a devoted group of supporters who are passionate about preserving the tradition. In this scenario, smaller bullrings or alternative venues could cater to this niche audience, providing a space for bullfighting events to continue on a smaller scale.


Education and cultural preservation efforts may also play a role in shaping the future of bullfighting in Tijuana. Highlighting the historical and cultural significance of the tradition, as well as promoting dialogue and understanding between supporters and critics, could help generate a more nuanced and informed perspective. This approach may foster compromise and mutual respect, paving the way for a future where bullfighting coexists with evolving values and practices.


Ultimately, the future of bullfighting in Tijuana will depend on a delicate balance between tradition and adaptation. It requires thoughtful discussions, collaborations, and an openness to exploring new possibilities. Whether bullfighting in Tijuana experiences a reimagined resurgence, a gradual decline, or a combination of both, it will undoubtedly be shaped by the intersection of social, cultural, and ethical forces that define the trajectory of our evolving society.



The last days of bullfighting in Tijuana mark the end of a cultural tradition that has deeply influenced the city for decades. As we reflect on the history, evolution, controversies, and current state of bullfighting in Tijuana, it becomes clear that the tradition is facing significant challenges and declining popularity.


The factors contributing to this decline are multifaceted, including changing societal values, concerns for animal welfare, and a shift towards alternative forms of entertainment. The controversies surrounding bullfighting reflect larger debates about the treatment of animals and the relevance of cultural practices in today’s world.


While the future of bullfighting in Tijuana remains uncertain, there are potential paths that could shape its trajectory. Adaptation and change may be necessary for the tradition to survive, such as the exploration of non-lethal forms of bullfighting or the promotion of educational and cultural preservation efforts.


However, it is important to recognize the significance of bullfighting in Tijuana’s cultural heritage and the passionate support it still garners from certain segments of the population. The tradition has been an integral part of the city’s identity, captivating audiences with its artistry, bravery, and the eternal struggle between man and beast.


As Tijuana navigates the complexities of the future of bullfighting, it is essential to engage in thoughtful dialogue, find common ground, and respect differing perspectives. Balancing the preservation of cultural heritage with evolving societal values and ethical concerns is a challenge that requires sensitivity, education, and a willingness to adapt.


Regardless of the outcome, the last days of bullfighting in Tijuana represent a turning point in the city’s cultural landscape. It serves as a reminder of the ever-changing nature of traditions and the importance of reflecting on the values and ethics that define our society.


Whether the future holds a reimagined and more sustainable form of bullfighting or the eventual disappearance of the tradition, the legacy of bullfighting in Tijuana will continue to shape the city’s identity and cultural tapestry. Only time will tell what lies ahead for this deeply ingrained and controversial cultural phenomenon.