Monday, November 19, 2007

Bully for the Bull

Unthinkable! It would seem that the country whose cultural legacy includes the Spanish Inquisition (which no one expected) - the very land which spawned the hammer of heretics, the light of Spain, the saviour of his country, the honour of his order freethinker Tomás Torquemada - still, in the year 2007, has its iconoclasts. To the best of my knowledge I haven't actually met one and I confess that I had my doubts that these recreants even walked the earth. But no more! - for Señor Gatito Gringo's classroom has been cursed by the presence of one such heretic.

They are the anti-toro-ites. These so-called 'Spaniards' scorn, revile, spit upon el toro de Osborne. Quite simply, they hate the Osborne bull.

How can it be, you ask? I wish I knew. The 4,000 kilo, 14-meter high black silhouette of the bull has, without a doubt, become Spain's unofficial national symbol. Originally commissioned by the Grupo Osborne (sherry company) in 1956, the original bull (calved the following year) was smaller, had white horns, and bore the words Veterano-Osborne and a picture of a glass of brandy. The toro, as we now know him, only became bigger & better when, in 1961, legislation was passed that required a 150-meter distance between Spain's highways and any roadside advertising. As the bull pulled back, he grew in stature.

Then 13 years ago, a further insidious law was enacted which prohibited all roadside advertising - a law no doubt penned by an anti-toro-ite - and our Osborne bull was earmarked for the slaughterhouse. The bullophile public refused to be cowed by the Ministry of Public Works, and campaigned - with the help of Osborne - to 'save the bull'. Rather than knackering the bull altogether, a deal was struck: all references to Osborne sherry were to be blacked out - although 2 such Veterano-Osborne branded bulls still walk the earth. Or rather, stand atop their hills. The bull finally and now officially transcended its humble sherry-soddened roots and became a permanent fixture in Spain's cultural and physical landscape.

Of course even without the logo everyone knows that it's the Osborne bull except those who don't so then who cares? The bull is Spain. He - for he is a he, as one glance at his prodigious scrotal sac will verify - has become so closely associated with the country that Catalan nationalists targeted and vandalized the only bull in their region so often that authorities finally decided to put the bull out to pasture. Except in someone else's pasture.

There are now some 100 bulls guarding Spain cities and frontiers. Years ago I experienced the same thrill seeing my first Osborne bull as I did catching a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Admittedly, I don't get out much.

As a Canadian, I wouldn't object to seeing a hundred 4,000 kilo, 14-meter high black silhouettes of beavers scattered about the Great White North. But alas, as alluded to earlier, the bull does have his detractors. These philistines claim that the leviathan bulls are a blight, that they mar Spain's natural beauty and cite France's limp version - the Renault car company shield - as an analogous example of roadside advertising at its worst. Hardly analogous but certainly hideous. I don't doubt that there are those infidels in Portugal who abhor the 'Sandeman man' port advertisements which dot the countryside but no one should listen to them either. In another time - but not another place - these anti-toro-ites, these apostates to the Truth Faith would be burned at the stake for the heretics they truly are.

But why rhapsodize about the bull? Why the somewhat squirrelly history lesson? Because today is the Osborne bull's 50th birthday! - no small feat among working bovines. And although we don't have any Osborne in the house, that won't prevent Señor G.G. and I from raising a glass of his competitor's something special and wishing him a heartfelt ¡feliz cumpleaños!


Di Mackey said...

I offer this song

Hmmm as background drinking music on occasions such as this one or as a song to drunkenly sing loudly on the way home from a night out on the tapas

It still makes me laugh ... sigh.

La Gatita Gringa said...

Thanks for that WW: now I'll be humming the tune all afternoon.

knarf said...

This love of Osborne is rather ironic, coming in a country that slaughters his confreres in public, for sport.

Still, one must be happy for Osborne on this day.

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