El Juli, in September last year in Santander.JUAN MANUEL SERRANO ARCE / EL PAÍS
Julián López El Juli (Madrid, 37 years old) speaks from the tranquility of the Extremaduran countryside of the critical situation that bullfighting through the coronavirus is going through. And it does so with the prospect of being at the top of the ladder for years, in his case more than two decades. That boy who dazzled the world in the late nineties is now, already tanned in a thousand battles, before his most difficult task: “Now what worries me is that bullfighting lasts over time,” he says in a telephone interview with EL PAÍS .
Question. How has the sector fitted this blow just before the start of the season?
Answer. It is a very hard time because this is one of the cultural industries most affected by the crisis. The festivities are concentrated in these months and many people have run out of income. The situation of the crews and other professionals is worrying, as well as the ranchers who have invested heavily in raising the bulls. Anyway, the most important thing right now is health.
P. From bullfighting the government is being asked for help, although they denounce the lack of response from the authorities. Is it possible to redirect that situation?
R. The people of the bull have been loyal, generous and patient with the Minister of Culture, but we have received nothing but discrimination, insults and emptiness from the Government. We are hurt and we do not understand the attitude and lack of recognition of this cultural industry just because it is not to the liking of some political party. Now, at least, the Minister of Culture José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes is going to attend us and we will finally have a meeting. We want to redirect the situation, but we demand a change of attitude. We demand that the Government recognize what we are and represent.
P. Does it refer culturally or to the economic part?
R. To everything. Economically, for example, the bull invoices some 4,500 million euros a year, generates 200,000 jobs and a lot of income for the public coffers. Furthermore, despite what is said, it only receives 65,000 euros from the General State Budgets. Then there is what it supposes culturally, which is part of the identity of Spain and one of the largest mass shows in the country. So I am uncomfortable with the lack of recognition, it seems to me a lack of respect. We do not appear in the measures that the Government has taken and have not counted on us in their meetings until now, it seems that they were trying to hide us. The law obliges the institutions to sustain, protect and disclose bullfighting as part of the country’s cultural heritage. Don’t you want to comply with the law?
P. What are the priorities right now?
R. Perhaps the most affected are the gangs, bullfighters who are in a low position on the ladder that depended on this season and ranchers. It hurts that the government does not look after them, they need access to aid. And the sector needs tax benefits and lines of credit to survive and reactivate as soon as possible.
P. Is a party restructuring necessary?
R. The world of the bull has remained on its own throughout its history, but it will have to be reinvented. I have great faith that the sector knows how to evolve and adapt to today’s society. I think communication is a great job to do, knowing how to explain what bullfighting means. Although it is clear that the party is sustainable, you just have to see that it is a show that is capable of taking more than 20,000 people for 30 days in a row to a venue.
P. Do you think there will be bulls this year? Even closed-door festivals with television have been proposed.
R. There may be special events and things, but it’s still too early for that. Personally, I do not see feasible a bullfight without an audience in the lines. An important leg of the show that is the amateur would be missing. The conjunction of bull, bullfighter and public is what makes bullfighting great.
P. Are the figures willing to help in whatever is necessary?
R. There is much concern, many ideas and many proposals. I think there is no need to err on the side of nervousness and impatience. There are very strong things to do and it is important that bullfighting figures get involved and help the sector. In my case I am totally available.
P. Is there an advanced idea or something concrete?
R. No, there is still to be determined what can be done, but the bullfighters are ready to help.
P. Has your future been rethought with this break?
R. (Silence). I don’t think this is going to change the idea I had. Now I think more about the sector than about my career. I have already been lucky enough to experience the greatness of bullfighting and get what I dreamed of. What worries me is that the bullfighting lasts over time and that this social and political phase in which the bulls are used in a partisan way passes. There should be no such division that worries me even on a personal level.