What are corralejas and why are they so popular in Colombia?

This weekend four people died and about 250 were injured when a grandstand collapsed during the celebration of a corraleja in the department of Tolima, in southwestern Colombia.

The accident occurred in the arena of the municipality of El Espinal, where a huge portion of the wooden box collapsed during the show, filled with spectators.

President Iván Duque sent a message to the victims and announced that will open an investigation.

“We feel the terrible tragedy recorded in El Espinal, during the San Pedro and San Juan festivities, due to the collapse of boxes in a corraleja. We will ask for an investigation of the facts; speedy recovery to the injured and solidarity with the families of the victims, “said the president through social networks.

However, the seriousness of the event was such that Gustavo Petro himself, in his role as president-elect, asked the mayors of the country to suspend the celebration of the corralejas due to lack of guarantees on the stages.

“I hope that all the people affected by the collapse of the Plaza de El Espinal they can get out of their woundsPetro noted on his Twitter account.

“I ask the mayors not to authorize more shows with the death of people or animals,” he added.

And it was the president-elect himself who pointed out a serious precedent in these shows, which resemble traditional bullfights but take place in a popular environment and with stages made of wood that are much more precarious than a bullring.

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In the corralejas there is no defined bullfighter, but almost anyone in the public can come out to fight the bull.

This had already happened before in Sincelejo“, said.

And he was referring to the tragedy of January 20, 1980, when several stands of a corraleja show that took place in the Colombian city of Sincelejo collapsed and left more than 500 people dead.

But what are the corralejas, a celebration that dates back to the 19th century, and why has the president-elect himself asked that they no longer be held in the country?

Savannah and cattle farms

The origin of the corralejas has to do above all with the arrival of the cattle to the territory later known as Colombia. along the north coast during the times of the Spanish colony.

According to several historical reports, this led to the creation of many cattle ranches in this region of the country.

The anthropologist Santiago Cembrano points out in his article “Las corralejas, fervor y fiesta” that the work that the laborers of these farms did with the cattle – shoeing, dehorning or curing– ended up becoming a popular celebration.

The tradition was established above all in the Sucre region, especially in the city of Sincelejo.

“The first known corraleja was held there, in October 1845, in honor of San Francisco de Asís, patron saint of this city”points out the academic.


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The celebration of the corraleja takes place in settings that are often precarious.

The corraleja then consists of a stage, made of board and guadua, where several bulls fight, but unlike traditional bullfights, there are no bullfighters here: anyone can get into the arena and venture to face the animal.

“The corralejas take place on a closed stage that welcomes the spectators with stands and boxes, like a corral. hence the nameCembrano notes.

“Music is also necessary, hopefully live, to set the mood for the show,” he adds, emphasizing that joints and fandangos are the preferred musical genres.

Nevertheless, unlike what happens in a bullfight where the purpose is to kill the bull and the animal can be sacrificed, in the corralejas that objective is not sought but rather to entertain oneself in the altercations with the animal.

The celebration of the corralejas became a cultural tradition Sincelejo -which celebrates them every January- and, perhaps driven by that combination of music, party and risk, soon spread throughout the country.

In fact, the collapse of the grandstand that occurred this weekend happened in a municipality in the Colombian Andean region, located almost 900 kilometers from the region where this festival originated.

Cow during a corraleja

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Environmentalists have drawn attention to the mistreatment of animals with this celebration.

Debate over his treatment

In Colombia, there is a polarized debate about bullfighting, which has been banned in some parts of the country, including temporarily in the capital, Bogotá.

However, a 2009 law declared the Fiesta in Corralejas on January 20 in Sincelejo Cultural Patrimony of the Nation, so its defenders maintain that these events are protected by law.

But despite this, there is a history for which many ask that the corralejas not be celebrated anymore.

Like the one Gustavo Petro cited. In that January 1980, most people died due to the collapse of the stands that housed the spectators.

Although there have been prohibitions, the corralejas continue to be carried out in different areas of Colombia, many of them in precarious spaces and without minimum security conditions or official controls.

But it is not only the precariousness of the stages that causes accidents and deaths: dozens of attendees have died in the arena gored by the bull.

In one season they came to count up to 88 victims due to injuries caused by the bulls during the corralejas.

horse wounded by a bull.

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The horses do not wear any protection and are at the mercy of being gored by the bulls.

Added to this is the complaint by animal rights defenders, who ask that the corralejas be canceled because they cause the death of many horses, which are used for bullfighting and do not wear any protection.

We are not prepared for this type of acts such as corralejaswe ask for the abolition of these, not that they be regulated, because there is no capacity or any control for the defense of animals, “Mufith Salaiman Fayad, president of the Animal Protection Society in Sucre, told the Colombian portal Las dos costas.

Earlier this year, in the municipality of Caucasia, some 500 kilometers west of Bogotá, three horses and a bull died during a corraleja celebration, in which 22 people were also injured when they were beaten by cattle.

But, as he has already pointed out on his Twitter account, with the possession of Petro, on August 7, the end of these celebrations in Colombia could begin to be written.

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