Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dwarf Bullfighters – Human Exploitation Meets Animal Cruelty

It sounds cruel when I write about it, but watching a bunch of dwarfs running around with calves that match their size could invoke quite a bit of laughter. There’s nothing cute about this however, the fighting is quite real and dangerous. Thankfully, the calves and the men are usually unharmed.

Wondering what I’m talking about? Meet the bullfighting dwarfs of Mexico, a group of short entertainers who are by no means ashamed of what they do. The sport, for obvious reasons, has earned the title of being one of the most controversial in the world. Animal lovers say it’s cruel. Human rights activists agree. Critics worry about stereotyping. But there’s no denying the fact that it provides a steady means of income for those who otherwise would find it very difficult to get a job. Since employment discrimination is pretty widespread in Mexico, the dwarf community has actually benefited from the bullfighting shows. More often than not, the bullfighters are laughed at, and although this is the main purpose of their act, they would also like to be respected for what they do.
While bullfighting as a sport originated in Spain, the Mexican dwarf version is no less entertaining – a heady mix of comedy and excitement. Currently, about 20 dwarf bullfighting troupes exist in Mexico and they make frequent tours across the border to the US, performing for migrant native Mexicans. The competition between troupes is pretty intense, so many of them have added attractions to the show. A group from Guadalajara sings and does impressions, while the Bullfighting Dwarfs of Torreon jump through burning hoops.The tradition of the Mexican dwarf bullfighters started way back in the 1970s. According to the manager of the Giants of the Bullring, Gustavo Vazquez, the real goal of the show is to make people see past the fact that the performers are little people. Javier Landa, another performer, says that Americans may not understand what they do. “They may think we go out there to be laughed at, but that’s not the case. If a little person can fight a bull, he can do anything. That’s what we’re trying to prove.” The dwarf matadors can make up to $100 per show, and sometimes as little as $50.

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