Gored Through the Neck Matador Who Cheated Death Makes His Comeback
Part 4: A Story of Courage
When Aparicio was able to speak again, he gave many interviews. The accident was turned into the great epic that bullfighting in Spain needs so urgently. It took bullfighting back to its most basic, archaic principles. The animal earns respect by trying to survive, and the matador becomes an object of publish adoration for vanquishing the bull. There is great power in the relationship between the two. It was the inspiration for paintings by Picasso and Goya. Even when the balance between the matador and the bull is upset, the respect for the animal remains. The injury or death of the matador is a nothing more than one of the rules of the game.
Aparicio quickly realized that he had an opportunity to deliver a great story -- a story of courage in the face of adversity, and of the triumphant return of a matador only 10 weeks after having a horn jammed through his face. But everything had to happen very quickly.
First he fired his manager, who had said in an interview that a bullfighter couldn't recover that quickly from an accident like Aparicio's, at least not psychologically. The new manager says it is possible. In recent weeks, his job has consisted of arranging interviews and signing contracts. Aparicio will fight in August in Vitoria, Marbella, El Escorial, Gijón, Torremolinos, Málaga, Antequera, Ciudad Real, Requena and Palencia. He had had only six bookings by May. He is now scheduled to appear 11 times in August alone. In the last few weeks, the media have featured a number of human-interest stories about the matador: Aparicio exercising, Aparicio on his ranch, Aparicio the man.
Like Being Run Over
He has even managed to find the right words to describe what happened to him. "Imagine you get run over by a car. It's the same thing," he says. "Except that the car leaves you alone after it has run you over."
Has his relationship with the bulls changed since the accident?
"The bull and I, we are a team," he says. "The bull gives you your triumph. He's your friend. He can also catch you. He's an animal and he wants to defend himself. But I see him as a friend."
Things were progressing. Don Eduardo's plan seemed to be working.
There was only one question that everyone seemed to have forgotten in the midst of all the excitement: What happens the first time Aparicio encounters a bull after Madrid?
It's hot in Pontevedra. The sun has been shining all day. His first bull, a 510-kilo animal, is named Cortesano. Aparicio takes the large cape and flourishes it a few times, keeping it as far away from his body as possible. Then he calls Francisco, the fat picador. Francisco is ready. His horse is blindfolded. He tucks the lance under his arm and waits for Cortesano. He isn't a particularly wild bull. Nevertheless, Francisco is too hard on the bull, and the crowd boos. Francisco jams the lance into the bull's shoulders and neck again and again, until Cortesano, severely weakened by now, turns away.
Aparicio, who now appears to be anxious to get the whole thing over as quickly as possible, is breathing heavily, almost as heavily as the bull. He performs a few straightforward flourishes with his cape, and the grateful band starts playing a paso doble tune. What the audience is witnessing in this arena is no triumph. Instead, it sees a man who wants to get out. But it isn't over yet.
His second bull is named Bombardero. Once again, Aparicio takes no risks, makes a few flourishes and quickly summons the picador.
He has almost made it through the ordeal. Aparicio has the dagger in his hand. All he has to do now is plunge the blade into the exhausted animal, and it'll be over. The matador assumes his position, runs toward the bull and stabs it in the neck. But the angle is much too flat and he falls to the ground. Once again, Aparicio is lying on the ground in an arena.
The matador, now wild-eyed, seems to panic for a brief moment. He tries to get up again, making the same mistake he made in Madrid. Bombardero nods his head. But this time the exhausted bull moves to the side and remains standing. Aparicio stands up.
He has made it. He is alive. The kind people of Pontevedra clap, but it isn't the applause of people paying homage to a triumphant matador. Instead, it's the happy applause of fans who are relieved that this day has ended safely for Julio Aparicio.
"There are certainly some people in the audience who only came to see if Aparicio might be gored once again," says Don Eduardo. A good seat for this piece of theater went for 110. Don Eduardo compares it to a Formula 1 race. He says that he only watches the races for the crashes. The rest, he says, is boring.
For Aparicio, the good news of the day is that he's still alive.
The bad news is that there are others who still have big plans for him.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
- Part 1: Matador Who Cheated Death Makes His Comeback
- Part 2: A Celebration of Spain
- Part 3: Miracle in the Arena
- Part 4: A Story of Courage