Bullfighting, Sport and Industry by Ernest Hemingway (Fortune 1930)
Editor’s note: “Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters,” Ernest Hemingway wrote in his 1926 classic The Sun Also Rises. This week, Fortune turns to a feature Hemingway penned for the magazine’s March 1930 issue on the harsh, unforgiving, and, for a select few, immensely lucrative business of bullfighting.
Marcial Lalanda made over $150,000 last year. But the bull breeding sons of Don Eduardo Miura took in only $33,000. Then there is the matter of the propina.
By Ernest Hemingway.
(This article, dealing with the economics of the bullfight business in Spain, is contributed to Fortune by Mr. Ernest Hemingway.)
FORTUNE — Formal bullfighting is an art, a tragedy, and a business. To what extent it is an art depends on the bulls and the men who are hired to kill them, but it is always a tragedy and it is always a business. Just how much of a business it is may be judged from statistics which showed that the Spanish people spent 20,000,000 pesetas ($2,966,000) on bullfights in 1911.
Maximiliano Clavo who, writing under the name of Corinto y Oro, is one of the most prominent bullfight critics in Spain — his position on La Voz of Madrid corresponds to that of W.O. McGeehan on the New York Herald Tribune — disputed this sum at the time and gave figures to show that the Spanish public spent between 28,000,000 and 35,000,000 pesetas ($4,152,400 to $5,190,500) a year on bullfights. Since then the price of seats at the bull rings has doubled and in this last year there were 319 formal corridas de toros or major league bullfights in Spain as against 241 in 1915.
Every once in so often you read in the papers a stock story about how Association Football is putting bullfighting out of business in Spain. It is a story that is usually written by a newspaper man on his first visit to Spain, a visit which may be made during the off season for bullfights when football is in full swing. With rare exceptions the major bullfighting season opens at Easter and closes at the end of October. May is the fatal month for the bullfighters. Joselito, Granero, Varelito, all died in that month as well as many matadors of earlier days. May is the most dangerous month because bulls are at their strongest after fresh spring pasture and before the long, hot, debilitating voyages from ranch to bull ring in summer months. Bullfighters in May are not yet at the peak of their training after a winter’s inactivity or else stale from the long trip to Mexico or South America.
After October many of the bullfighters go to Mexico, Peru or Venezuela where the season opens as it closes in Spain; others go to the bull breeding ranches of Salamanca to train during the winter with the young bulls and cows, and others spend the winter resting or recuperating. A visitor to Spain sees no bullfighting activity in the late fall, winter or early spring unless he goes out into the country; but to conclude that the bullfighting industry is dying out is as silly as it would be for a European visitor to deduce that baseball was finished because of the empty ball parks in America after the World Series.
There were 230 major bullfights in Spain in 1922. This was the lowest figure in a number of years and was caused by the death in the bull ring, in two successive years, of Joselito — one of the three or four greatest bullfighters who ever lived — and Manuel Granero, a boy from Valencia who gave promise of taking the great Joselito’s place.
After Joselito, whose real name was Jose Gomez y Ortega, nicknamed Joselito or Gallito, and the last of a great family of bullfighters of that name, was killed in the ring at Talavera de la Reina many people who had admired him swore they would never go to bullfights again.
His great rival, Juan Belmonte, retired and when young Granero was killed in Madrid in May, 1921, the public was left without an idol. In 1924 various young matadors were getting a following and there were 248 big league corridas. This number was increased to 286 in 1927, in 1928 to 305, and last year to 319.
In this last year 61 bullfighters killed 1,856 bulls in Spanish rings. The bulls were paid for at an average price of around 1,8oo pesetas (from $240 to $300 apiece) and were furnished by 104 different accredited bull breeding ranches. That means that the accredited ranches (they are organized into an association for mutual protection and to protect the breed, fighting bulls being bred as carefully as race horses) received something over 3,340,800 pesetas ($495,440.64) for formal or classic fights. In addition they furnished about one third as many defective animals at bargain prices for the apprentice bullfights or novilladas.
There are also informal bullfights for amateurs, called capeas, where any sort of bulls are used, but these come under the head of sport and are not considered here except as they serve as training schools for professionals.
The Spanish fighting bull is as different from any domestic bull as the wolf is from the dog. He is not merely a vicious form of the same animal, he is a separate and wild strain directly descended from the wild bulls that roamed the Iberian peninsula, and he is closer kin to the Cape buffalo, supposedly the most deadly of African big game, than to the Hereford, Jersey or Durham. The bulls are raised on big ranches where they live as they did in the days when they were a free roaming wild animal. When they are a year old, the calves are cut out of the herd by men on horseback and branded with the iron of the breeder and with an individual number. They are given names in the breeder’s stud book. About the same intelligence is exercised in naming them as is shown in the naming of race horses and Pullman cars. When they are two years old, the calves are tested for bravery. Both the male and the female calves are tested, and the testing may be done either in a corral or on the open range. This test, in which they are allowed to charge a man on horseback and are held off by a pic or vara, a long lance like a vaulting pole with a short steel pike at the tip, is to determine their bravery and a note is made of their probable courage or viciousness. Those that are not brave are marked for veal. The cows are tested to find their suitability for breeding to maintain the viciousness in the strain. They are tested also as to their following the cape, in order to avoid breeding from color-blind animals or animals indifferent to color. A color-blind bull or one with defective vision is useless for the ritual of the bullfight. Great care is taken that the bull calves should not come in contact with the men on foot, and the bullfighters and amateurs work with the female calves. This is because there is no harm in the cows learning about the cape and how to hunt for the man; in fact it is necessary to test them if they are to be bred, but the whole ritual of bullfighting is built on the fact that it is assumed that the bull is having his first contact with a dismounted man in the ring.
The bull is only in the ring about twenty minutes from the time he comes out until he is killed, but all the time he is learning and becoming increasingly dangerous. The bullfighter, from the time he comes out with the red cloth and sword, is given fifteen minutes to kill the bull. If the bull is still on his feet at the end of ten minutes, the matador is given a warning through a bugle call ordered by the presiding official at the fight. A second warning is given three minutes later and a final warning at the end of the fifteen minutes. When the bugle blows for the third time the matador must leave the bull and retire behind the barrier in disgrace. The bull is taken out to the corrals by the steers which are held in readiness to enter the ring the minute the final warning sounds. A bull taken out in this way must, by law, be killed at once in the corral. The disgraced matador may be fined a part or the whole of his contract at the discretion of the presiding authority. If his attitude has been insolent or cowardly, he may be ordered to jail on a charge of disrespect of the constituted authority and by his attitude causing scandal and riot. This scandal and riot caused by a bullfighter who is afraid to kill the bull is something worth seeing for anyone interested in scandals and riots as such. In the early times of bullfighting bulls were allowed to fight several times in the ring and so many men were killed in bullfights that the church forbade anyone taking part in them under pain of excommunication, and this ban was only lifted when a law was passed which required that every bull which appeared in the ring, whether he was killed by the bullfighter himself or not, should be killed at the end of the fight. It is around this law that the modern tragedy of the bullfight is built.
The bull moves quietly in the herd. Separated from the herd he is not so peaceful. As to his strength: I have many times seen a bull lift a horse high in the air and with a thrust of his neck muscles throw the horse over onto his back. Picadors, riding the horses, are many times thrown completely over the barrier by the shock of the bull’s charge. The most common end for a picador is mental derangement from the concussion of the shocks he receives when he is thrown with his horse by the bull.
As to blind bravery: a single really brave bull separated from the herd, will attack, light-heartedly, a motor car (this has occurred many times), an elephant (this took place in the ring at Madrid and the bull would have killed the elephant had the fight not been stopped), and with no hesitation at all a full-grown African lion. This fight was allowed to go to a finish and the bull killed the lion. We do not know how representative a champion the lion was. The point is that the bull showed no fear of him and the more threatening noises the lion made the more eager the bull was to charge.
He is vicious, angry; the great hump of muscle on his neck that gives him power when he hooks rises; his horns are sharp, sometimes as sharp as a porcupine’s quill, if he has not blunted them or splintered them against the inside of his traveling cage; and he is as fast on his legs and turns as quickly as a polo pony. There are six bulls to a fight, and they are sold on the hoof at the ranch for between 12,000 and 15,000 pesetas ($1779.60 to $2,224.50) for the six. The purchaser pays for the cost of putting the bulls in the cages. By the contract he is required to pay for any damage they may do while they are being driven from the ranch to the pens where they are caged. It is he who loses if the bulls fight among themselves and any are wounded or killed. He is required to pay the railway fare from the ranch to the bull ring of a man who travels with the bulls to see they are given food and water, and he guarantees to pay this man a tip of 100 pesetas ($14.83) after the fight and his fare back to the ranch. If from the time the purchaser, who is the bull ring promoter, sees and pays for the bulls on the open range any of them are hurt, die or become sick with an infectious disease, it is the purchaser’s hard luck. He also guarantees by contract that the bulls will be unloaded from their cages and rested in the corrals of the bull ring for a full three days before they are to be fought.
There is no truth in the story that the bulls are kept without food or water to make them more vicious. The bull is not a carnivorous animal; he does not kill for hunger but for pleasure and bulls are given food and water until they are put into separate dark pens at noon on the day of the fight.
Breeders of bulls
The sons of Don Eduardo Miura of Seville own perhaps the most famous bull breeding establishment because their bulls have killed more men than any other. This is not because they are particularly brave but because they are very uncertain, reserved, refusing to charge uselessly and frankly, but saving their strength to try and kill the man. They are also big, stand high at the shoulder, have very wide horns and necks that seem to reach longer and longer as the fight goes on. The bravest bulls are usually black, but the Miura bulls are roan, sorrel, steel grey, black and white and various combinations of colors. This last year, in spite of the fact that many of the bullfighters do all they can to avoid having to fight the Miuras, the ranch sold 66 bulls for formal fights. It probably sold nearly half as many defective bulls, that is with some defect of horn or vision, for the minor fights which are called novilladas. A novillo may mean either a bull which is under four years of age or a fully aged bull with some defect that makes him unsaleable for formal fights or corridas de toros where the bulls are required by law to be between four and five years old and free from all defects.
At 3,000 pesetas apiece the Miura bulls brought their owners 198,000 pesetas for stock sold for formal fights. If 20 young or defective bulls were sold (they sold 18 in 1928 and the 1929 figure will not vary greatly) at 1,200 pesetas apiece, that adds another 24,000 pesetas. This total of 222,000 pesetas or around $33,000 is the gross income and from that must be deducted all the expenses of the ranch.
Pablo Romero is another famous bull breeding ranch, perhaps the most scrupulous of all in testing, breeding only from the bravest stock, never selling any bulls under age and never seeking to reduce the size of the bulls through breeding down to please the bullfighters. Last year they sold 60 bulls and their gross income from these and the defective bulls will probably not have been above $33,000.
Of all those concerned in bullfighting, it is the conscientious bull raisers who have made the least out of the general advance in prices. In 1865 a first class lot of six bulls brought 6,000 pesetas. In 1885 the price bad gone up to 9,000. ln 1912, when a bullfighter was making 7,000 pesetas as top price for killing two bulls, a lot of six bulls from the ranches sold for about 12,000 pesetas. Now, when first class bullfighters get 15,000 pesetas for an aftenoon’s work and Juan Belmonte, who was in a class by himself before he retired, received 25,000 pesetas for a fight, the same lot of six bulls brings only 15,000 pesetas.
The result has been that many bull breeders are unwilling to keep their stock until they are past four years, and, to please the bullfighters, who sometimes insist on certain breeds of bulls in their contracts, sell their products when they are only just past three years, and are therefore much less experienced in the use of their horns, lighter and less dangerous, the breeders relying on the compliance of the medical authorities to pass them as fully aged.
There is a royal decree which regulates all phases of bullfighting: the weight of the bulls, that is, the dressed weight the four quarters must have when the bull is cut up in the butcher shop of the ring after the fight to be sold; the age (this is judged by the teeth which must be examined on the severed heads by a government veterinary after the fight and a written report made); the height of the horses which are ridden by the picadors in the first third of the fight and bear the shock of the initial charge of the bull. A general tolerance of infractions of this code exists, however, and this is further complicated by the practice of the propina or tip.
Horses and tips
Take the matter of the horses. This is to most Anglo-Saxons the most objectionable part of bullfighting. It is especially objectionable to Americans, always before they have seen a fight and sometimes afterwards as well. Yet most of the horses for the Spanish bull ring are furnished by the United States. The worst, worn out cab horses in Spain will bring $50. So the big horse contractors for the Spanish bull ring buy their horses in St. Louis where western horses can be purchased for as low, sometimes, as $5, ship them to Newport News and bring them to Spain direct, a shipload at a time. The bull ring horse contractor will at the same time buy mules for the Spanish army and I have one friend in the business who, as well as buying horses for the ring, buys polo ponies for the King of Spain. The fact, however, remains that the United States, where opinion deplores the use of horses in the bull ring, furnishes some 85 per cent of the horses used.
At various times attempts have been made to do away with the use of horses in the Spanish fights. They have all been unsuccessful. Without going into the technical causes, it is a question of having either horses or men killed. Men are liable to be killed in any event, but they are certain to be killed if horses are not used. The present Queen of Spain is an Englishwoman. When she married Don Alfonso and came to Spain she wanted to see a bullfight — but without horses. It was put on in private with real bulls, and after seven men had been carried to the hospital and the Queen had left the Royal Box, the two bulls still left to be killed were allowed to wait in the corrals to be brought out on another day when horses should be used and the general public admitted.
At present horses are protected by a sort of mattress which is hung over their chests, upper forelegs, and bellies. A horse protected by one of these mattresses can be wounded by a bull, but the spectators are spared the sight of the wound. Anyone who has ever been wounded knows that the pain of a wound does not come at once but from half an hour to forty minutes later. In the old days the public could see to what extent the horse was wounded and could, by their protests, force the horse to be killed at once. Now the wound is concealed to be sewn up in the corral. The wearing of the mattress, which was hailed by many people as a step in the humanizing of the bullfight and making it more acceptable to visitors to Spain is, in reality, a great blow against it.
The horse contractor furnishes the horses for a fixed sum — formerly, for a big fight, 2,000 pesetas ($296.6o). There were required by law to be six horses on hand in the corrals for each bull which was to be killed. The contractor must have these horses on hand, but it is to his interest that as few of them are killed as possible, also that they should be of the minimum value possible. The horse contractor therefore gives a propina to each bull ring servant in order that he will do everything possible to avoid horses being killed, i.e., put out of their misery in the ring.
The contractor also gives a tip to the picadors — the men who, of all men who take risks of life and death, are paid the worst, next to the soldiers, of course — in order that the picadors will take additional risks and accept horses which do not comply with the regulations as to height, size, strength, etc. It is to the existence of these tips that most of the visual horrors of the bull ring are due. The picadors, if they were well paid and trained and well mounted on big, solid, strong horses, could protect their mounts from the bull, and the tiring of the bull and the lowering of his head could be accomplished with no more danger to horses than they experience, for instance, in steeplechasing. A really fine picador will sometimes go through an entire afternoon on the same horse and never have his mount touched. The horse contractors have been most responsible for all the sights which have shocked northern people in their first view of a bullfight.
The men who make the money out of bullfighting are not the bull raisers, who are nearly all rich men before they become bull breeders, nor the promoters — last year in Spain out of 115 bull rings that gave major fights there were not a dozen rings that made any considerable money — but the matadors or killers. There are many reasons for this, but the principal one is that the matadors are organized.
The lot of the promoters is very difficult. All bullfights take place in the open air. A serious bullfight in the rain is impossible, and a bullfight without sun is completely unattractive. Therefore the promoters are at the mercy of the weather. Because the bullfighter fills his dates up early in the year and because most bullfights are given on Sundays, legal or religious holidays, and during the months of August and September on the fixed Saints’ days of towns, these Saints’ days determining the dates of the local fairs, the promoter must sign the bullfighter to a contract at the start of the season. If the bullfighter is injured and cannot appear, the promoter must get a substitute and the substitute may not have the drawing power in gate receipts of one-eighth as much as the original fighter contracted for. Again, the bullfighter may be wounded and on going back to the ring after coming out of the hospital be in bad physical shape, or still under the impression of the goring he has received, and may take no chances at all, do nothing brilliant, and kill the bull how and when he can instead of artistically preparing and killing by the rules. So the promoter is at the mercy of all sorts of accidents. He has bought his bulls from the bull breeder, and perhaps something happens to them: they get hoof and mouth disease, which was epidemic throughout Andalusia two years ago, and he sees them refused by the veterinary, or they may fight together in the corrals of the bull ring — they frequently do — and at the last minute he has to replace one or two. The promoter is in a bad way, too, because he usually does not own the ring but has to rent it from the municipality. The rings are usually put up for rent by sealed bids every five years or so. If the promoter has rented the ring for 30,000 pesetas a year, as was done at Malaga where the ring made money due to the popularity of two local bullfighters, at the end of five years the promoter may find himself bid up to 90,000 pesetas ($I3,347) a year, one of his local fighters dead and the other useless, through fear and high living, as a drawing card, and the promoter himself facing five years of almost certain loss.
The promoters of the bull ring at Valencia, a rich city of over 200,000 people surrounded by the richest farming country in Spain with peasants coming in from the country each day for bullfights during Fair Week, gave eleven bullfights on successive days this last July in a ring which holds 16,851 people. On nine of the eleven days the ring was full. On four days there was not a ticket to be had by the morning of the fight. Two fights which were given with local matadors of the second category, who received less than half of what the first strong matadors were getting, drew only about 10,000 spectators each. Yet at the end of the eleven days of bullfighting, when every day but two the ring had been filled to capacity, the promoters were bankrupt. The reasons for this loss were the price they had been bid up to lease the ring; the exigencies of the matadors, who were popular favorites; and the fact that the most expensive first row seat at a bullfight at Valencia costs less than five dollars. That is all the public will pay for the best seats except at tourist centers like San Sebastian; if prices are raised they stay away.
Bull rings in Spain which make money are Madrid, where there is a big ring, a steady public of bullfight fans, many of whom have their seats subscribed for during the season, and a steady stream of tourists to attend the fights the regulars stay away from; Bilbao, where the seats are also subscribed, where the population has money and where the taxes are almost inexistent because the profits go to the local hospitals and charitable institutions: San Sebastian, where there is a rich summer colony and also Saint Jean de Luz, Biarritz and all the Basque coast to draw tourists from; Pamplona, where, because of the last survival of the old custom of running the bulls through the streets in the early morning, people come from all over Spain to spend bullfighting week and where, also, there is a big ring which is managed and kept tax free by the local poorhouse. These rings with, usually, Barcelona, Seville, Valladolid, Santander, always show a profit. But promoting bullfights in other Spanish cities is a gamble for the individual even though the local municipalities often make a subvention for the fights or fight in order to attract people from the surrounding country to the Fair Week.
Profits of the Matador
The people who get the money are the matadors. Take, for instance Marcial Lalanda who, last year, was the best, the most skillful, the most consistent and the highest paid matador in Spain. In 1924 the bullfight promoters organized to fight the matadors, whose demands were ruining their business, and agreed to blacklist any matador who demanded more than 7,000 pesetas, around $1,000, for killing two bulls. This sum was to include the pay of the matador and his team or cuadrilla of three banderilleros or cape and dart men and two picadors. These assistants are always paid by the matador and given their traveling expenses out of what he receives for the fight. The attempt to hold down the bullfighters’ prices was broken by one man, Ignacio Sanchez Mejias, who demanded I2,000 pesetas for a fight and got it because he was popular, and ended by fighting sixty times that year in defiance of the promoters’ organization.
Since then bullfighters’ prices have not been controlled in any way by the promoters, and Marcial Lalanda this year gave eighty-six fights at an average price of well over 12,000 pesetas. This would gross him over a million pesetas. The price of the fights varied slightly and the exchange on the peseta also varied during the summer, but it is accurate enough and no exaggeration to say that Marcial Lalanda gave eighty-six fights at an average of $2,000 apiece. That gives him a gross of $172,000 against a gross for the season of $33,000 by the leading bull breeder.
The bull ring at Pamplona, for instance, with all expenses paid but no charge made for depreciation, was said to have netted 200,000 pesetas or some $29,600 on the season, one of the most successful it has ever had. If Marcial Lalanda had wanted to go to Mexico for the winter, where there is an enormous ring and where the seats are sold in dollars, instead of resting after his hard season, he could have fought six times and earned an additional $25,000 net.
Next to Lalanda in point of earnings came Vicente Barrera with 66 fights; Felix Rodriguez with 63; Valencia II, 43; Niño de la Palma, 42; Villalta, 41; Marquez, 37; Chicuelo, 36; etc.
All these bullfighters mentioned, except Villalta, lost many fights from horn wounds, and the fights they lost were divided among the other 53 matadors, who fought anywhere from 34 to 2 fights.
There were six matadors in Spain last year who had only one fight. None of them received over 4,000 pesetas for their single appearance and it is safe to say that they had to give at least 1,000 of that to their aids and the manager who put them on the program, and the 3,000 pesetas that remain is all the money they made in the year of Our Lord 1929. There were thirty-one bullfighters, that is, officially consecrated bullfighters or matadors de toros, who made less than $4,000 last year. So it is not the bullfighters in general who make the money but rather the twenty or so who are in the first flight of their profession.
Out of the 12,500 to 15,000 pesetas ($1853.75 to $2,224.50) that Marcial Lalanda receives from each fight, he must pay two picadors at 625 pesetas ($92.69) the pair, two banderilleros at 300 ($44.49) apiece, and another at 250 pesetas ($37.08). He pays his manager perhaps 250 pesetas ($37.08) for each contract that he signs for him, and this added to the expense of his team makes a total of 1,725 pesetas ($255.82), which he must deduct from the money he receives from each fight. He holds down traveling expenses by making all trips possible by motor car.
The bullfighters who in the height of the season must fight, for instance, at Santander one day and at Valencia the next, a train trip of over 40 hours, have been the greatest beneficiaries of the splendid motor roads that are being built all over Spain.
Leaving Santander after the bullfight and driving all night and the next day, the team of bullfighters arrives in Valencia at three o’clock in the afternoon in time to bathe, dress, and rest a short time before the fight. But it is unfair to the public, who pay to see a performance by men at their best rather than tired and stale after an all night motor trip. The bullfighter has one idea: to make all the money he can while he can, because he never knows when an accident, a slip, or an error of judgment may bring him a wound that will incapacitate him or, what is as bad, take away his courage. It takes a bullfighter half a dozen fights after he has been badly wounded to get his confidence back. This has nothing to do with his fundamental courage — no man is a coward who goes into the bull ring — but a brave man may be so badly wounded that he cannot control his reflexes at the approach of the horn.
Also when a matador has been badly scared he cannot kill well. He cannot profile in front of the hull’s horns, make the bull lower his head to follow the red cloth held in the man’s left hand, and, as the man goes in on the bull and the bull charges, put the sword in high up between the bull’s shoulders. After he has been wounded, and until he gets his confidence back, he only gives a parody of the final encounter between bull and man. He shoves the sword in any way he can and the crowd throws all available objects at him. After the matador has been wounded, and until he has his nerves back, he does only one thin — avoids the bull’s horn; and each day he loses popularity and drawing power. There are new fighters coming up each season and after two or three bad years a bullfighter finds himself without contracts, out of training because he has no chance to keep his judgment of distance and confidence by fighting. Then he has to accept what fights he can get as a substitute, kill the bulls no one else will kill and, being out of practice, if he tries anything brilliant the serious horn wound is nearly inevitable.
Bullfighters start their profession in two ways. If they have economic advantages, they can go to the bull ranches of Salamanca, principally, and learn to handle bulls through practicing on the female calves when they are tested for fighting quality. They will have the aid and counsel of mature bullfighters who will correct their faults and tell them how to do things. In this way they are sometimes made good, artistic, mechanical bullfighters who have a great success when they are working with the young bulls in the novilladas or minor bullfights, this success sometimes continuing until they get their first horn wound from a real bull, after which they may lose their courage and usefulness entirely.
Poor boys, without any financial protection, follow the bullfights as bootblacks, eager to get into the ring in any kind of an amateur fight no matter how dangerous; practicing the various passes on each other, a passing waiter, a cab horse; riding under the seats of trains with their fighting capes rolled up as pillows; going for days without food when they have been put off a train somewhere by a conductor who catches them without a ticket; going through all the hell of the capeas or village fights where an old, experienced criminal of a bull is let loose in the barricaded square of a country town and all the aspirant bullfighters may practice with it or be practiced on by the bull. There was one such bull that was used in the province of Valencia which killed sixteen amateurs and crippled badly more than thirty others before the law forbidding capeas was enforced and the bull was finally sent to the slaughterhouse. Boys following this method of learning to bullfight get the worst of it first, but they do not have to worry about having their confidence suddenly destroyed by their first wound or by some bull that may have other ideas than to follow the cape.
A bullfighter may spend some years as a novillero or killer of young or defective bulls. Unless he has rich backing he will kill no young bulls. Those will be saved for the young phenomenons who are being rapidly pushed ahead by people interested in their careers. The average aspirant bullfighter will have to contend with bulls which are too big, too old, too dangerous to be accepted by the artistic heads of his profession. He will be wounded again and again; in all his fights as a novillero he will never get up to a thousand dollars a performance, and he will have to spend a good part of what he makes on publicity and propaganda in the bullfighting papers; but if his physical means and his passion for bullfighting remain intact, then, finally, he may be made a matador de toros or formal bullfighter. He will then be in competition with the sixty-one other matadors in Spain who were in practice in 1929.
If he gets to the top he will make $200,000 a year in the best years of his life, he does not have to pay income tax on what he earns, and he should, if he can stay near the top, make over $100,000 a year for at least six years. But if he does not get to the top he will have the same dangers, greatly increased because he will have to kill the bulls that are refused as too dangerous or unsuitable to their styles by the aces of the business, and he will make about twice as much as a street car conductor does in America.
So far only one American has entered this competition. He is Sidney Franklin, born Frumkin, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and I salute him. As a matador of novillos he has had some fifty bullfights in Mexico, killing all kinds of bulls in competition with local matadors. He had over seventeen fights in Spain last summer, three times filled the arena of Madrid to capacity, got his price up to $1,000 a fight, thinks, talks, and lives nothing but bullfighting, and hopes to be the greatest matador in the world. He has never been gored or badly wounded although he has been tossed frequently in the ring. He is very brave, very skillful, very artistic, and kills very well, and he explained to me how bullfighting was really not dangerous, that there is always a way to avoid being gored, that, in the words of Ricardo Bombita, it is not the bull who gores the man, but the man who gores himself on the bull by some mistake in technique; and I, who have seen nearly every bullfighter in the first twenty seriously wounded at least once, wanted very much to believe him and hoped it was all true.