21 septiembre, 2021

SPANISH BULLFIGHTER AND AN AMERICAN TEACHER.

It is uncommom that a man who was a well-known bullfighther in the Spanish world for 10 years, left such exciting profession to pursue a career as a teacher in American classrooms. Sometimes special circumstances determine the destiny of a person. In my particular case, living during my childhood in Seville close to my bullfighter relatives inspired me to become matador; and my marriage to an American woman brought me to the United States, where I just ended my 30-year career as a successful educator. I was born in 1933 in Seville, Spain.

It is uncommom that a man who was a well-known bullfighther in the Spanish world for 10 years, left such exciting profession to pursue a career as a teacher in American classrooms. Sometimes special circumstances determine the destiny of a person. In my particular case, living during my childhood in Seville close to my bullfighter relatives inspired me to become matador; and my marriage to an American woman brought me to the United States, where I just ended my 30-year career as a successful educator. I was born in 1933 in Seville, Spain. I grew up there near my uncle Curro and my cousins Manolo, Rafael and Pepín, well-known matadors of the famous Martín Vazquez bullfighting family. From them, and especially from Pepín, I learned the techniques of how to fight a bull, which enabled me to develop my innate artistic ability of bullfighting. Then, my obsession to be a matador became a reality in the decade of the 50’s, when I fought in the bullrings of Spain, France, and Portugal, as well as in several countries in Latin America. After three years of performing in small towns to hone my skills, I made my debut as a novillero in Tangiers in July of 1952, and made my formal and very successful debut in Madrid in September of the same year. I cut ears on both bulls, and exited the arena through the ‘Puerta Grande’. I twice repeated similar achievements two years later. My initial success in Madrid opened the doors of the most important bullrings in Spain to me, where I performed as a novillero for another three years. And my second success in that ring put me on the way to becoming a full-fledged matador. This took place on May 31, 1955, in Caceres, Spain, when I received my alternativa, the bullfighter’s doctorate, from Emilio Ortuño “Jumillano”, with Pedrés as the witness. My performance that afternoon was one of the highlights of my career. I obtained four ears and a tail, and left the ring through ‘the Puerta Grande’. I continued my bullfighting career as a matador in Spain, Portugal, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Guatemala and Panama for five more years. But I paid a high price in physical punishment for achieving my childhood ambition of becoming a matador, since I was seriously gored nine times, and with the frustrations I felt because of being unable to fulfill many contracts while recovering from those injuries. Until December, 1959 my career as a bullfighter was not very different from those of the majority of bullfighters, but my decision to cut short my matador’s life prematurely and to move to the United States has made my experience rather unique. In 1958, while performing in Ecuador, in Quito I met Sally Norton, an American girl, whom I married. In November of the following year, in Colombia, where we moved because I had to perform in several fights there, our first son John was born in Cali. Then, upon returning from Armenia, where I fought what happened to be my last corrida, I surprised my wife with the news that I was retiring from bullfighting. We moved to Howard County, in Maryland where Sally’s family lived. Our second son, Allen, was born in Baltimore in 1970. After taking a few courses in English, I obtained Bachelor’s degrees in sociology and in Spanish literature and a Master’s in Foreign Language Education at the University of Maryland. I became a teacher, and for thirty years, I taught Spanish in Baltimore County and held the position of Foreign Language Department chairman until my retirement. I also taught part-time at several colleges and supervised programs for student teachers. I thought I had left my bullfighting background behind, but an article in the Baltimore Sun made public the fact that a bullfighter had become a teacher. Interviews, appearances on television programs, requests for presentations at universities and clubs, and articles about bullfighting followed. I, ‘the teacher-matador’ became a curiosity to a public interested on learning about a subject that was little known and somewhat controversial in America. So, by the merest chance I found an outlet involving my never-forgotten bullfighting experiences with my teaching skills. This attention awakened my dormant passion for bullfighting. First, my awakening took only an academic track, since I started investigating the historical and cultural aspects of bullfighting to continue writing and lecturing about the subject. But later, during in my periodic trips to Spain and Latin America I renewed my contacts with the taurine world and, finally after more than thirty years of being away from the horns, I performed just for pleasure with small bulls and calves in Mexico and in California. Now, retired from my two careers, with more free time, I write more intensively —my articles have appeared in several regular and electronic magazines, and in American taurine club newsletters. I also spend more time involved with the taurine world, and with the understanding, if not the pleasure, of my family, from time to time I dream of my life as a matador facing live animals in tentaderos in Mexico and in the California countryside. So, by pure chance, first the teacher in me found an outlet to spread my bullfighting knowledge using my teaching experience, and later the old matador remembered how to use his rusty taurine mastery to practice his art in private bullrings.

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