MEXICALI, Mexico — Fifteen minutes into a heated session on whether bullfighting should be banned in Baja California, legislator David Ruvalcaba proposed that the fate of the controversial but financially attractive sport needed further study.

Boos rang out and half the crowded walked out.

For the third time this year, the Congress of the Mexican state of Baja California blinked in the face of banning a sport that has deep cultural roots in Mexico but is increasingly viewed as animal cruelty.

On Thursday, 12 legislators voted for the delay, eight opposed it and two abstained. And like that, bullfighting season will indeed begin Sunday in Tijuana.

Though they have repeatedly chosen not to vote on the issue, legislators here bristled at the notion, put forward by the bullfighting lobby, that the state does not have the power to regulate the sport.

“Of course we have the power to regulate the sport,” said legislator Juan Manuel Molina, though he allowed that power carried the responsibility of exploring the ban further.


“It’s a matter of culture and a matter of belief, but it’s also a matter of humanity,” Molina said. “The spectacle is cruel.”

But Molina questioned how it was fair to ban bullfighting while allowing other sports that claim Mexican heritage, such as cockfighting and the rodeo.

Animal rights groups have presented signature campaigns, celebrity endorsements and polls that purport to indicate overwhelming opposition to bullfighting as part of a public campaign against the sport, which has its roots in Spain and has been banned in some Latin American countries.

Bullfighting is increasingly unpopular in Mexico, according to the polling firm Parametria. In a 2015 poll, 73 percent of Mexicans supported a ban.

The Mexican states of Sonora and Coahuila, which border the U.S., have banned bullfighting, as has the southern state of Guerrero. But the sport remains popular in the country’s capital, Mexico City, where the Plaza de Toros Mexico seats 48,000 spectators, the largest bullring in the world.

On Sunday in Tijuana, the largest city in Baja California, the event will feature a rejoneador, a bullfighter on horseback, for the first bullfight of the season.

Built nearly adjacent to the border wall that separates it from California, the Tijuana ring is designed to appeal to Americans, even extending special offers to San Diego tourists.

If the ban is successful, the nearest bullring near the Southwest border would be Chihuahua’s “La Esperanza.”

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