Confessions Of A Real Life Bullfighter

David Mora, Bullfighter.

The time-honored but modern day matadors remain celebrities – and often very well-paid ones – from Seville to Madrid to Pamplona.

By Michael Patrick Shiels.

The time-honored but modern day matadors remain celebrities – and often very well-paid ones – from Seville to Madrid to Pamplona.

In an old world country which celebrates the triumphant novels of literary giants Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and Ernest Hemingway, the man fighting valiantly remains the ultimate celebrity. “Don Quixote,” in the pages of the work titles after him by Cervantes (1605), fought windmills imagined to be dragons, and in the subsequent musical “The Man of La Mancha” sang of the “impossible dream.” But the bulls Hemingway described in “The Sun Also Rises” (1926) and “Death in the Afternoon” (1932) are a real life nightmare to actual bullfighters. The time-honored but modern day matadors remain celebrities – and often very well-paid ones – from Seville to Madrid to Pamplona.

A visit to Madrid’s Las Ventas bullring – a 23,000-seat stadium – is to witness the primal bull battle Hemingway described as an art form, but it’s not for the squeamish – just as being a “torero” is not for the mild. As “The Sun Also Rises,” and the 1957 film version starring Ava Gardner, Tyrone Power, and Errol Flynn display, it’s not only courage but also a flair for the dramatic – glamour, grace and performance – which bullfighters must embrace and embody. Their elaborate, glittering costumes and effusive showmanship during the fight and in victory – when the matador walks around the ring holding aloft the ear of the fallen bull – is cheered by the crowds. To walk in their footsteps though, because they are often shadowed by an angry, half-ton horned creature, is not advisable for most people, but the opportunity to see bullfights in Madrid, Pamplona or Seville is accessible to visitors.

Occasionally, by special arrangement, a visit with a bullfighting star and the opportunity to watch him privately train up-close (and maybe even try your hand at it if you dare) can be obtained through Made For Spain And Portugal, a Madrid-based tour company specializing in authentic Spanish experiences.

Matador David Mora, one of Spain’s top-10 ranked stars of the ring, trains with smaller – but still dangerous – horned cows at Ganaderia El Ventorrillo, an elaborate bullring on a ranch 45 minutes outside Madrid in Robledo De Los Osillos. The facility has lodging for bullfighters, a bar and restaurant overlooking the ring with over 30 mounted trophy heads, and a museum of framed matador photos and artwork.

Want to drink like a matador?

Mora, 36, was sipping a Coca-Cola after a training session but thinking about switching to a glass of Spanish Rioja wine.

“I don’t feel like a celebrity,” he said, while his friend Javier translated. “I feel I am famous because of what I do and I want to be valued for what I do – not for who I am. Fame is something that appears and disappears.”

Mora, tall, dark, and handsome, has the movie star looks central casting would be looking for in an adventurous leading man.

“It’s not completely necessary for a bullfighter to look like I look, but the technique is very important,” he insisted. “You have to be brave. You might be real handsome, but without the technique and courage you would not be able to go to the bullring every night.”

Presumably, as Hemingway wrote and most clichés go, the torero’s do very well with adoring women. Do they all have a bit of “Don Juan,” the fictional Spanish womanizer written into legend by Tirso de Molina in 1630, in their blood?

“I am a man like any other man. I feel like a man, but it’s a cliché that matadors go after women. They go after women like anyone else. It’s fun to have the reputation,” Mora conceded, “but I am like any man.”

When asked which, based on Hemingway’s accounts of women and bulls in “The Son Also Rises,” Mora feared more, he laughed at the premise.

“Both of them can be dangerous. You know that an angry bull can be dangerous…but I am not making the same comparison but women can be as dangerous as a bull,” he insisted. “I am a great fan of Hemingway, not because he is a writer, but because of what he did for the world of bullfighting. He discovered what bullfighting was and translated, to American people, bullfighting is in an honest way. That is not easy to do. He was surrounded by the best matadors at the time and they taught him everything there was to learn around the Fiesta San Fermin in Pamplona. I am grateful Hemingway did that and showed the world how the world of the bulls was.”

Mora has also performed in Pamplona, which has the world’s third largest bull ring…and plenty of locals

“I feel both fear and respect every time I step into the arena. Each time I face death, admitted Mora, who nearly lost his life in Madridin 2014 when a bull named “Deslio” tossed and gored him repeatedly, slicing open his femoral vein.

“I was seconds away from death. I lost half of the volume of the blood in my body in 40-seconds and I almost lost my leg,” Mora said.

Hours of surgery and blood transfusions saved him, and his determination got Mora back into the bull ring after two years of recovery and sacrifice.

“After that, I became another man. Facing death so closely has changed me forever, but I still love my profession. I desire to have more evenings of glory,” said Mora, who admits his family members, who used to come watch him every time he performed, now refuse to attend because they are afraid for him. Instead he goes with God “Vaya con dios is a very common phrase in my profession.”

Mora’s colleague, Ivan Fandiño, from Bilbao, died in a ring in France two months before our interview after tripping on his cape and getting severely gored.

“We were friends but also close rivals. We spent hundreds of evenings together. We were the same age. When I heard about his death I felt very sorry. I will remember him forever and carry the sorrow with me. It has touched me deeply in my heart,” Mora said. “This kind of thing is going to be with me now for my entire life. Every time I go into the arena I am going to think of him…and also the risk I am taking.”

Source: Forbes

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