The other week, I took this photo of photo of three relatively young men heading out to tag newborn calves at Partido de Resina and some of the comments that were made about the photo on twitter said how good it was to see young people working on the ranches. This got me thinking about the generational divide that’s supposed to exist in Spain regarding the bulls. The gist of the typical narrative is that young people are not interested in the bulls and the fan base for the bulls is ageing. I’m in no position to either cite or rubbish statistics. I do my research in a small corner of the world of the bulls and I’m not trying to assess things on a grand scale. However, being an anthropologist, I suspect that the full story is somewhat more complicated. In the heartlands of bull-breeding I’m sure there are more young people involved than elsewhere – I imagine it varies somewhat depending on regional history too. I suppose the bulls might also sometimes be something that people come to appreciate as they get older.
The foreman at Partido de Resina is a little older than me (I’m 26) and people of his age and younger often come to help out on the ranch. Also, on big days (like the herradero), there are often children about. However, if there’s one group of people who have been most patient with me, it’s the older vaqueros (stockhands) and aficionados (fans) who work on the estate. Though these venerable and wise fellows are also the ones most likely to make a joke at my expense. I’m never quite sure what to do or say, other than go red, when they insist that the best way of learning Andalusian Spanish would be to have a local girlfriend or friend with “touching rights”.
What I’ve most appreciated from people like José and Moy is that although they are more than willing to correct me when I do something wrong, they also tend to be sensitive to my predicament and the frustrations of trying to at once learn very practical things and a language. Sometimes that means leaving me to work something out on my own. Or sometimes leaving me to stew when I’m past the point of being able to listen when I can’t do something right! Sometimes it’s a much needed slap on the back when I go quiet and my eyes glaze over as we wait for the riders to bring a group of bulls in. Juan, who frequently pops over to help out, is particulary good at this back-slapping and always has pockets bursting full of mandarins to offer to overwhelmed anthropologists.
So, here’s to all the older stockpeople out there, upon whose shoulders us young upstarts stand. Working outdoors in all weathers is not easy and I admire the passion that leads people do work in such environments for a lifetime and still find joy in it. José, Moy, Juan, and lets not forget Cabezon too – I salute you!
More photos of our heroes follow.
Until next time,