- jessica parker
- BBC News in Western Spain
Spain’s first openly LGBT bullfighter believes more bullfighters will come out after revealing he is pansexual.
“There have always been homosexuals in bullfighting, but they never said anything,” says Mario Alcalde.
I met the 31-year-old on a remote farm near the Portuguese border. There he was conducting a practice session for one of Spain’s most famous and infamous traditions.
In his little black waistcoat and skin-tight gray trousers, he looks every inch a bullfighter.
However, Mario Alcalde also works full time as a baggage handler at Madrid Barajas Airport and lives with his family. Bullfighting brings in large sums of money only for an elite few.
He is working to raise his profile after telling Spanish newspaper El Mundo that he is pansexual, meaning he is attracted to others regardless of their gender or sexuality.
He says coming out was a natural decision. I didn’t even know his family.
“This idea came to me…Artists are very spontaneous. It came from my heart.”
The matador as an artist is an established concept within the bullfighting community. Supporters see the event as a noble contest between man and beast.
However, this is a blood sport and is banned in most countries. It is also banned in some parts of Spain.
Many of the film’s fiercest critics say it’s a brutal, prolonged and sadistic spectacle in which the bull usually has no chance of survival.
It’s a part of old Spanish culture that blends flamboyance and masculinity, and is far more associated with Spanish conservatism than the modern gay scene.
“We thought there would be some opposition, but people have accepted it in the best way possible,” Mario says.
He attributes the fact that he is Spain’s first LGBT bullfighter to the perception that bullfighters come from “the countryside” rather than “more globalized” cities.
He now wants to establish a “peña”, or meeting place, for bullfighting supporters in Chueca, the heart of Madrid’s LGBT+ community.
“Perfect!” says Antonio, in Chueca’s main square, right next to a subway sign decorated with LGBT rainbow flags.
“I’m glad he came out. This will take the status of what we call ‘macho’ down a notch or two.”
Husband and wife Juan and Juan are also happy to hear that the bullfighter has come out, but they disagree on the broader issue.
“I went to see bullfights when I was a kid, I like it, and I know what this event means,” says Huang.
His husband isn’t much of a fan. “I’m not saying you can’t establish a gay bullring. I just don’t think it’s appropriate for this area. Bullfighting as a whole is very conservative.”
His views resonate with a table of younger LGBT+ people who are less tolerant of a tradition that has waned in popularity.
“The problem with bullfighting is that it confuses the animals and causes them to die in a tragic way,” Maria says. “Bullfighting continues because it’s a tradition. If this idea was new, I don’t think it would be approved.”
Fran feels conflicted about being a supporter of bullfighting and a member of the LGBT community, even though ultimately “everyone is free to have their own beliefs.”
Bullfighting attendance numbers have been declining for decades.
Despite an increase after the coronavirus pandemic, especially among young people, just under 2% of the population went to see a bullfight in the 2021-2022 season, according to statistics from Spain’s Ministry of Culture. was.
Mario Alcalde strongly resists suggestions that his passions are increasingly out of place and out of touch with modern sensibilities.
“There is no decline,” he said, adding that “society’s sensibilities are out of sync with the realities of life.”
“If you want to hide death, you want to hide everything. To truly live, you have to know that you will die someday.”
In today’s training, Mario confronts a young bull as he weaves around the ring with a pink cloak in hand, before occasionally running behind a walled fence for safety.
So far, no animals have been killed, but a man on horseback has injured them using what looks like a pike pole.
By the end of the session, Mario’s pants were stained with blood that was not his own.
Despite repeated challenges to the inherent violence against animals involved in bullfighting, he remains defiant to the end.
“If I had to live another life, I would be a brave bull and die like a brave bull.”
This is a traditional and staunch defense of the movement that Mario Alcalde aims to modernize and diversify, but opponents argue that regardless of the bullfighters’ sexuality, this is a fading shadow of Spain’s past. I hope that.