Saturday, June 15, 2024

Fire consumes ‘artisanal’ bullring at Yucatán fair; no injuries reported

A bullring enclosed in a makeshift “stadium” constructed of wooden poles, tree needles and other natural materials caught fire Sunday afternoon and was completely consumed within 10 minutes at an annual fair in Panabá, Yucatán.

Miraculously, there were no reported injuries, according to several news sources, even though the first bullfight at 4 p.m. was just about to start and the facility was crowded with approximately 2,000 people.

The Yucatán bullring that caught fire was made entirely of natural materials.
The traditional bullring was made entirely of natural materials. (X)

The traditional structure included elevated, private viewing boxes surrounding a small, circular, wood-and-metal grandstand. Rustic staircases made with branches and other pieces of wood led to the upper viewing levels.

Tabbed the “plaza de toros artesanal,” the three-level “stadium” looked like a combination of a beachfront enramada and something straight off “Gilligan’s Island.”

Panabá is a town and municipality halfway between Mérida and Cancún.

Its annual fair pays homage to San Isidro Labrador, the locality’s patron saint to whom farmers and other residents pray for rain — not that their prayers had been answered. Temperatures over the weekend hit at least 46 Celsius (114 Fahrenheit) without a drop of rain in sight.

As the fire ignited and began to spread, screams could be heard as people, some of them jumping, tried to escape as quickly as possible. The palqueros, valued community members who are entrusted with building the Maya-type structure, were so busy assisting others and getting themselves to safety that many of their chairs were left behind.

Emergency personnel arrived at the site, but there was nothing they could do as the columns of smoke reached nearly 20 meters high.

While reports on social media said fireworks hit the bullring and caused the conflagration, the newspaper El Universal did not cite a cause. Mundo Toro, a website that reports on bullfighting, also said the structure caught fire due to pyrotechnics.

The Panabá city council opted to cancel the fair’s Cultural Night on Sunday in the town’s central plaza. It was to include folkloric dancing, comedy and more.

However, officials decided the fair would continue on Monday, with the bullfight in a permanent bullring in Panabá — the Plaza de Toros Monumental Aranda — and a folkloric ballet in the main square.

On Monday, the mayor of Panabá, Omar Adiel Mena, wrote on Facebook he worked out a deal with owner Fernando Aranda to rent the bullring for 35,000 pesos (US $2,083), with the city council absorbing the cost. In his post, he thanked Aranda and his wife for accepting the deal. “Last night he asked for 70,000 [pesos, but] today he agreed to give us a discount,” he wrote.

The mayor said his main goal was to financially support the palqueros, the respected town members who participate annually in the building of the structure and who then recoup their costs by selling tickets, snacks and beer. “The palqueros were satisfied with the support” they received, the mayor added.

In a reader comment underneath the article in El Universal, one person wrote, “I am glad that it was burned so that the bulls are not cruelly mistreated and murdered. Thank you God, thank you.”

With reports from El Universal, La Jornada Maya, Por Esto and Mundo Toro

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