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If Only the Matadors Had Died

Two weeks after bullfighting was banned in Spain’s Catalonia region (beginning in 2012), a knuckle-dragging executioner named Julio Aparicio made his murderous return to the bullring, this time in Pontevedra, a minor-league killing floor compared to the sacrificial palace in Madrid, where, just a few months earlier, he’d come close to being “vanquished” by a bull named Opiparo.

In May, Opiparo managed to ram a horn into Mr. Aparicio’s neck and through the bottom of his jaw. According to a punk named Juan Moreno, the image of the horn exiting Mr. Aparicio’s mouth “looks like a caricature of a bullfight.” Mr. Moreno, in his “coverage” for Spiegel Online of Mr. Aparicio’s return to the killing floor, wrote, “For the photographer, Cristóbal Manuel, it was the shot of a lifetime.”

Indeed. I plan to purchase a copy of the image to complement a photograph of another matador, Israel Lancho, taking a horn to the abdomen in May 2009.

Both bulls, of course, are dead. The magnificent creature who impaled Mr. Lancho died shortly thereafter, having been stabbed repeatedly by the matador’s sycophantic death squad. (This is done to drain the bull’s lifeblood so the matador can finish the job without putting himself in too much danger.) Opiparo, having come close to “vanquishing” Mr. Aparicio, was executed by another matador.

Neither of these bulls, it seems, had been brought sufficiently close to death by the blades of each bullfighter’s henchmen to allow Mssrs. Lancho and Aparicio to play the hero’s role in a safe work environment. Mr. Moreno, in his Spiegel Online piece, described the death squad employed by Mr. Aparicio:

“The men by Aparicio’s side, his assistants, have been stretching their leg muscles for the last few minutes. Aparicio looks at them. He’s known them for years. After a while, Rafael, Angel and David will poke colorful hooked rods into the bull’s shoulders.

“But today Francisco, the fat one, is more important. He is wearing a light, cream-colored outfit that looks as though it has grown too small for him over the years. Francisco is the picador. Later on, he will sit on a horse and jab a lance into the bull’s neck, decisively weakening the animal. The matador wouldn’t stand a chance without the picador. Francisco has to do a particularly good job today. It’s important that he doesn’t overdo it, though. Fans don’t like it when the picador is too aggressive, because it would make the bull too weak to put up a good fight. But today Julio Aparicio doesn’t look like he could survive a bullfight without a strong picador.”

What happened to the 41-year-old knuckle-dragging executioner was the result of Mr. Aparicio having two left feet. To be a star in this blood-ballet, one needs to be a better dancer than Mr. Aparicio.

Mr. Moreno described what happened:

“During one of the movements, just as the bull’s horns had passed the cape, Aparicio took a step back and tripped over one of Opiparo’s hind legs. He had failed to notice that the bull had turned around.

“The matador fell to the ground. At that moment, he made a critical mistake: He tried to stand up.

“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.”

Mr. Aparicio is with us today thanks to a “miracle.” Again, Mr. Moreno:

“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.”

If only Opiparo had done “what comes naturally to a bull.” If only Mr. Lancho’s handicapped adversary had been able to direct his horn into Mr. Lancho’s heart.

Days after Mr. Aparicio made his murderous return in Pontevedra, a bull launched himself into the stands in the Spanish town of Tafalla, injuring many but, unfortunately, killing none of the spectators on hand. The event in Tafalla was, somewhat ironically, not one in which bulls were sacrificed. Still, for his bad behavior, the bull was destroyed, according to The Independent.

The Guardian described what happened in Tafalla as an “accident.”

Mr. Moreno used the same word in his story:

“Has (Aparicio’s) 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.'”

In Pontevedra, Mr. Aparicio’s two left feet almost provided another friend, a bull named Bombardero, an opportunity to do “what comes naturally to a bull.”

Mr. Moreno described what must been a moment of deja vu for the knuckle-dragging executioner:

“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.”

Too bad. Had Bombardero been able to give the knuckle-dragging executioner the lobotomy he deserves, I’d be adding a third photograph to my growing collection. Had Bombardero been able to “vanquish” Mr. Aparicio, I’d be lamenting eBay’s “Human remains and body parts policy.”

Mr. Moreno, in his piece for Spiegel Online, left readers with this:

“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.”

Indeed. I am one of them.

I am looking forward to the day that Mr. Aparicio is “vanquished” by one of his “friends.”


  1. Paul wrote:

    It’s incredible that bullfighting continues unabated in Spain. I understand the cultural heritage argument. But, still, this is 2010. Can’t we come up with an alternative.

    When I was in the Azores, they had a bull running—in a field, lots of drunk people, some trampling. No harm to the animal. Why can’t the Spaniards copy the Portuguese and do it that way? Maybe it’s the copying the Portuguese part…

    Monday, August 30, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink
  2. David Brensilver wrote:


    I do believe there is language deep in the Spanish blue laws that strictly prohibits copying the Portuguese.


    Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink
  3. Matthew Brensilver wrote:

    Unlike you Godless heathens, I prefer to source my ethical standards from the Iron Age and I see nothing morally objectionable in the use of animals to satisfy our blood-thirst.

    Let us not forget the sagacious words of your Lord, Jesus Christ:

    “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew, 10:34

    Say what you will about sentience, empathy, and the latent sado-masochism of our culture… just point me to the ticket line.

    Yours in the Lord and the Blood,
    Reverend Dr. Matthew Brensilver

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 12:03 am | Permalink
  4. David Brensilver wrote:

    Rev. Dr. Matthew Brensilver,

    Thank you reminding me of the wisdom of my Lord, Jesus Christ. I forgot all about him when he was traded to the Mets.

    And I forgot about what Matthew said at 10:34 that morning.

    I believe the reward for your wisdom is in heaven. And I’m told your tickets are at the will-call window, where there is no line.

    Stay thirsty, wise, god-fearing Reverend Doctor — and do say hello to my Lord, Jesus Christ (and tell him, politely, that he’s hanging his curve ball just a bit, which is why left-handed batters are taking him deep).

    Yours, in shame,

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink
  5. Chris wrote:

    If you made the fight fair i.e. no picadors or swords, they could keep the tradition. Make it more like a mixed martial arts fight. Bullfighter and bull in the octagon.

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 2:52 am | Permalink
  6. David Brensilver wrote:


    I would spend a small fortune to watch a pay-per-view broadcast of a fair fight between man and bull.


    Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 11:44 am | Permalink

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