Gored Through the Neck Matador Who Cheated Death Makes His Comeback

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Part 3: Miracle in the Arena


From an early age, matadors are constantly told not to get up if they fall to the ground. Those who stand up will more than likely be killed, whereas those who remain motionless stand a good chance of surviving. Bulls are not known to gore a matador in the back -- at least not usually. A matador who stays lying down has a chance, because his helpers will quickly run over to lure the animal away. Good matadors fight in the middle of the plaza, because it means that their assistants will have to cover the most ground to rescue them.

Perhaps, in the heat of the moment, Aparicio believed that he still had a little time left to get up. He will never quite remember the details of what happened next. He was sitting on the ground and he tried to avoid the bull by moving backward just a little. His head was bent slightly forward at about knee level. Opiparo, who had been tortured for about a quarter of an hour, turned around and ran toward Aparicio. He lowered his head, snorted, quickly approached the matador -- and rammed his right horn into Aparicio's neck, directly below his chin. The horn re-emerged from the matador's mouth. The resulting photo looks like a caricature of a bullfight.

The miracle, as it would later be called, was that Opiparo didn't do what comes naturally to a bull. He didn't shake his head back and forth. If he had, he would probably have ripped Aparicio's head to bits. Instead, the bull took a few steps forward, pulling Aparicio with him like a piece of beef on a hook. Then he pulled his horn out again.

At that moment, Aparicio's helpers arrived and distracted the bull. Everything happened so quickly -- in a matter of seconds -- that most of the people in the arena didn't even see it. Nevertheless, two fans with particularly good seats fainted at the sight of the goring.

'We Had to Act Fast'

A few minutes later, Aparicio was lying in the infirmary at the bullfighting arena.

"We had to act fact," says Máximo García Padrós. "They had placed a piece of cloth on his neck, and when I took it off, blood gushed out at me." García Padrós, the chief surgeon at the arena, is a calm, older man whose father held the same position. He is 62 and has been working at Las Ventas for 34 years. He has made it a habit to watch how the bull injures the matador, which makes it easier for him to decide what to do next. For that reason, the doctor always sits in the front row.

Aparicio lost a lot of blood very quickly. García Padrós had to stop the bleeding. The matador's entire mouth was shredded. The horn had penetrated below the left side of the face, passed through the lower jaw and split the tongue in half. Parts of the upper jaw were shattered. Five teeth were sitting loosely on the jaw and protruding horizontally out of Aparicio's mouth.

The doctor operated on Aparicio in the infirmary an hour later. He performed a tracheotomy and tried to stabilize Aparicio as quickly as possible so that he could be moved to a hospital. Four other doctors and two anesthesiologists were also in the room.

When García Padrós found a piece of the bull's horn in Aparicio's mouth, he placed it onto a gauze bandage and decided to keep it as a good-luck charm. The doctor is a little superstitious. If the horn had not reemerged through the mouth, perhaps puncturing an artery or the brain instead, his patient would now be dead.

But he didn't have much time to think about how lucky the man had been. Outside, the corrida continued. One of the doctors announced that another matador, the one who had killed Opiparo, had been gored by the second bull.

"It was one of those days," says García Padrós.

More Famous than His Father

By the time the ambulance left the bullfighting arena, the online editors of the Spanish newspaper El País had already placed the photo on the Internet. For the photographer, Cristóbal Manuel, it was the shot of a lifetime. He had simply pressed the shutter release when he saw Aparicio fall to the ground. The camera shot dozens of photos. When he looked at the display a short time later, he couldn't believe what he was seeing. The next day, the shot appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the world. Julio Aparicio was now Spain's most famous matador, much more famous than his father had ever been.

He spent six hours in surgery that day. There were complications a few days later, but he recovered surprisingly quickly. The doctors ordered him not to speak for a while, but they also said that he would recover -- with nothing but a small scar. Every conversation ended with the comment that he had been incredibly lucky.

"Of course, I was overjoyed when I heard about his recovery," says Don Eduardo, the empresario of Pontevedra. He has taken off his white hat. He looks younger than 75, which is something he hears often. "You just have to keep moving, or else the bull will get you," he says. Don Eduardo has known Julito since he was a child. His brother and Julio Aparicio's father stood in the arena together in the 1950s. "I called Aparicio and asked him if he wanted to do Pontevedra. He said yes five minutes later. We're old friends." Don Eduardo recognized the story's potential right away. He's been in the business long enough to know how to make money with bulls.

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Norberto_Tyr 08/16/2010
1. Bullfights remind US about our fragility when facing nature
Bullfights remind US about our fragility when facing nature and how persistent are traditions in our collective consciousness. Bullfights are the celebration of Theseus’ victory over the Minotaur, the victory of man over nature perhaps celebrated in Crete thousands of years ago at the time when human sacrifices seem to have been performed as well. In the ‘fiesta’, man’ s death cannot be discarded, for this reason ‘la fiesta’ is a whole life in fast forward, metaphorically, a life starts and finishes in one afternoon having the same metaphysical connotations of failure or success regardless of who is killed, man or beast; ‘el matador’ kills or he is killed, but the bull has an advantage, the bull is allowed to kill in any way regardless, is nature, the ‘matador’ is not, he must kill with art and grace, otherwise is an utter failure, the whole exercise becomes an unnecessary ugly butchery not much different of what happen in our butcheries every single day, as an Hindu might say not without logic. Nevertheless, we eat meat, as Schopenhauer might say: ‘I do eat meat’. Our civilization as a whole can be considered a ‘fiesta’, we are the ‘matador’ who most of the time wins, or at least this is what the Hollywood priests tell US, but I warn them, the ‘fiesta’ they loath for historical and biblical reasons, not for its apparent inhumanity or cruelty though, might turn out to be a premonition, we are the ‘matador’ and the climate is the bull, sooner or later the bull will gore US. Norberto
BTraven 08/18/2010
2.
Zitat von Norberto_TyrBullfights remind US about our fragility when facing nature and how persistent are traditions in our collective consciousness. Bullfights are the celebration of Theseus’ victory over the Minotaur, the victory of man over nature perhaps celebrated in Crete thousands of years ago at the time when human sacrifices seem to have been performed as well. In the ‘fiesta’, man’ s death cannot be discarded, for this reason ‘la fiesta’ is a whole life in fast forward, metaphorically, a life starts and finishes in one afternoon having the same metaphysical connotations of failure or success regardless of who is killed, man or beast; ‘el matador’ kills or he is killed, but the bull has an advantage, the bull is allowed to kill in any way regardless, is nature, the ‘matador’ is not, he must kill with art and grace, otherwise is an utter failure, the whole exercise becomes an unnecessary ugly butchery not much different of what happen in our butcheries every single day, as an Hindu might say not without logic. Nevertheless, we eat meat, as Schopenhauer might say: ‘I do eat meat’. Our civilization as a whole can be considered a ‘fiesta’, we are the ‘matador’ who most of the time wins, or at least this is what the Hollywood priests tell US, but I warn them, the ‘fiesta’ they loath for historical and biblical reasons, not for its apparent inhumanity or cruelty though, might turn out to be a premonition, we are the ‘matador’ and the climate is the bull, sooner or later the bull will gore US. Norberto
Hemingway would like to read your small essay had he been still alive. I always liked fights be it big game hunting, boxing, bullfighting, marine fishing. I think he appreciated baseball, too.
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