BELMONTE AND MANOLETE:
THE HERCULEAN PILLARS OF MODERN BULLFIGHTING
 By Mario Carrión, June 9, 2012

 

Notes from the Author:

April 8th of this year, 2012, was the 50th anniversary of the tragic death of Juan Belmonte, the outstanding bullfighter from Seville.

I was in Seville on the date of this sad anniversary to attend the corridas of the April Fair.  In the local press during that time several articles were published commemorating the death of Belmonte, praising the greatness of this artist who revolutionized bullfighting of that era, to plant the seed of modern day bullfighting.

Among those publications the ABC of Seville edited for its readers a booklet entitled JUAN BELMONTE EN ABC.  50 AÑOS DE SU MUERTE.  (Juan Belmonte in ABC.  50 Years From His Death.)  The booklet compiled old articles, biographical data and, of greatest interest to me, testimonials from important persons who had been friends of Belmonte. Affected by his death, they remembered Belmonte, praising his bullfighting skills, and also praising the admirable aspects of his personality and of his humanity.

Those testimonials reminded me that I had also met Belmonte but, unlike those important friends of the great matador, my relationship with him was reduced to some five minutes, and our dialogue was limited to only five words, four from the Maestro and one from me.

When I was barely fifteen years old and dreamed of being a bullfighter, I went with my cousin, Matador Pepín Martín Vázquez, then at the height of his career, to run some errands in downtown Seville.  As we passed the door of the Los Corales Bar, where Belmonte had his tertulia, Pepín, upon seeing Belmonte, stopped out of respect for him to greet him.  There followed a brief exchange while I watched Belmonte with great admiration, noting that he glanced my way.  Then Pepín said “This is my cousin, Mario, who wants to be a bullfighter”.  Belmonte, addressing me, said “Good luck, muchacho”.  At that point I, nervous as if I was addressing God, muttered with a great deal of humility the only word I could possibly utter, “Gracias”.

 I never saw Belmonte again, but I will always treasure that brief encounter with him.

The articles in the ABC booklet also reminded me of how the Belmonte style of bullfighting has been one of the bases on which modern bullfighting relies, as I related in this article, which I wrote some years ago.  

Now I reproduce that article here in memory of the phenomenal bullfighter, who fifty years ago took his own life at the Cortijo Gómez Cardeña where he had his ganadería.