The first bullfights took place in Rio de la Plata at the beginning of the 17th. century, on the main squares of the newly established cities, cleared and beflagged as on days of solemn celebrations. Gentlemen and the nobility took part in these early bullfights, which were usually combined with other equestrian sports. Professional bullfighters from Spain were an unusual sight in those days – distance and unstable borders militated against it.
Rio de la Plata did not equal in brilliance the viceregencies of Mexico and Peru, empires built on the mines, with a strong nucleus of court followers and well-rooted tradition of ostentation and refinement. In these countries, bullfights frequently reached loftier heights than in Spain itself. Buenos Aires had its own first, modest bull ring – Montserrat – in 1792, a ring later demolished thanks to constant complaints from the neighbours and which was replaced in 1799 by the Retiro, constructed to a Moorish design by the master builder Francisco Cañete.
Upon independence, interest in the bullfight slowly declined – the last one in the old Retiro was recorded in 1819 – until the governor Martin Rodriguez banned it, unless it had permission from the police , which could only authorise the use of animals which had been de-horned. This measure, which took away the incentive of witnessing an activity involving mortal risk, drove away the few “aficionados” left and bullfights became more and more rare, until they ceased completely with a “benefit” event in 1899, 8 years after the promulgation of Law 2786, for the Protection of Animals.
LAW 2786 – BUENOS AIRES, 25 OF JULY 1891
The Senate and Chamber of Deputies of the Argentine Republic sanction with force of law:
Article 1: Declare ill treatment of animals a punishable offence and those who commit this liable to a fine of 2 to 5 pesos, or, if they refuse to pay, arrest, with costs of 2 pesos per day.
Article 2: In the Capital and National Territories, the police authorities will provide the necessary cooperation to the Argentine Society for the Protection of Animals for the implementation of the Laws, regulations and orders made, or to be made, for the protection of animals…
Article 3: The total fines collected will go to charitable organisations in each area.
Article 4: The local authorities of the Capital and National Territories will issue decrees to conform with this Law.
Nowadays, the former bullrings in Buenos Aires have been esthetically transformed and are sights not to be missed by tourists. There is no reference at all there to their former use and the residents of the city know nothing of their past.
More than 100 years ago, the authorities and people of Argentina put a stop to this barbarous practice.