Gored Bullfighters

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During their recent episode of the VALUE: After Hours Podcast, Taylor, Brewster, and Carlisle discussed Gored Bullfighters. Here’s an excerpt from the episode:

Jake: Yeah, I’ve got kind of a fun one today, maybe. My topic today is about bullfighting. I don’t know if you guys know but Ernest Hemingway was a huge bullfighting fan. He has this great quote, he says, “There are only three sports, bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering. All the rest are merely games.” I think sports where your life was on the line, otherwise, you’re just playing a game.

Tobias: Not boxing? Boxing didn’t qualify?

Jake: Not according to-

Tobias: Not according to Hemingway.

Jake: -Hemingway, yeah. The Sun Also Rises, which is one of his books. He turned the running of the bulls in Pamplona from this obscure regional event into a worldwide phenomenon. He wrote this book called Death in the Afternoon, and it’s a 517-page nonfiction book that explains all about bullfighting and the process of it. He was a huge fan of it. It’s a very controversial subject because there’s obviously some ethical dilemmas about how the bulls are treated and what happens to them, the glorification of violence. But Hemingway encouraged people to look at it as this art. The matadors’ lines and the shapes that they would take were very artistic. There was a style to it. It wasn’t just you get in there and chop at a bull with your sword or something. It was this whole procedure.

A really proper final stroke was, the Matador to do it properly, had to put themselves in harm’s way as close as possible to do the one that the crowd would celebrate. They had to take it to the edge. There was an aesthetic pleasure and a pride in a very clean kill, which I think it’s an interesting thing. I think what’s really very interesting is at the highest level of esteem for Spanish bullfighter is the crowd wants to see how they react after they’ve been gored. Everybody can come in there when they’re fresh, but you don’t win the crowd over until you’ve actually been gored, and how do you respond to that.

I have to tell another story here about this woman named Conchita Cintrón. Born in 1922 in Chile, her father was a Puerto Rican and American mother. Her father was actually a West Point grad, but she grew up in Peru riding horses and became a bullfighter on horseback, which is one version of bullfighting that they have. In 1938, she made a splash in Mexico City, where she was a regular bullfighter on her feet. The crowd went crazy for her and just her lines and her style, were just so graceful.

In 1940, she’s gored in Mexico City. She’s… she’s taken to an infirmary. She refuses surgery, returns to the arena. With one quick thrust, she dispatches the bull, and then she collapses, and the crowd goes insane.

Tobias: [chuckles]

Bill: Oh, dang. Yeah, that’s gangster.

Jake: This is how she responded after being gored. She became a huge draw all over the world, traveled, did bullfighting. Next great story of her. 1949, in Spain, women aren’t allowed to fight bulls on foot in 1949. After performing her horseback routine with the bull, she rides past the Presidente’s cube or box, and asks Franco if she can dismount and finish the bull. She gets denied. She ignores the order, gets the sword away from the man who was supposed to take care of it, goes in for the kill and drops her sword just as the bull’s charging, and she simulated the kill by lightly touching with her fingertips the shoulder of the bull as it charges past her.

Tobias: [laughs]

Jake: Right. Crowd goes crazy. She walks off calmly and gets arrested for it. Then, there were riots in Spain, and they released her. Orson Welles wrote the intro of her memoirs, and he said that her career ended in a single burst of glorious criminality. She had killed 750 bulls over her career. Anyway, where can we torture this back into an analogy for us? This idea of how do you respond when you’ve been gored? Do you handle it with aplomb? Or, do you pout or are you a baby about it? There’s a lot for us to learn as well, and you’re never going to be respected by the unwashed masses or the crowd if you don’t handle your defeats with a certain stiff lip, and how do you bounce back. That’s the highest level that you can kind of attain. I just thought that was cool thing for if you’ve maybe taken some licks lately, how do you handle it?

Tobias: Her name was Conchita Cintrón?

Jake: Yeah.

Tobias: What’s the book? Is the Hemingway book about her?

Jake: No, it’s just more general about the process of a bullfight, a bunch of facts about it.

Tobias: What’s her book called?

Jake: I’m not sure.

Tobias: Don’t have it there.

Jake: Yeah, I don’t have it.

Tobias: Yeah, that’s fascinating. What a beast. In the last– just pre-COVID, I went to Spain and to Mexico City and didn’t get to see a bullfighter in either. I was trying to track one down in Madrid and Mexico. Neither was sort of- I don’t know why, they weren’t eager to let me out there and have a look at them. Probably that’s a good thing. I wanted to just go and see the spectacle, just to see what it was like.

Jake: Yeah.

Bill: I have a friend–

Bill: I went to Mexico once. I was kind of sad that they hurt the bull before the bull came out.

Tobias: Really?

Bill: Yeah.

Tobias: That’s not very sporting.

Bill: No, it wasn’t. At least, let the bull have a good shot at goring the guy. I probably went to some janky bullfight.

Tobias: Yeah.

Jake: That was the donkey show, Bill.


Tobias: I have a friend who’s a Harvard-trained lawyer who went to fight bulls. She’s from Singapore.

Jake: Jesus. Okay.

Tobias: Yeah. I don’t want to say her name on this because she’s very publicity shy. She’s not very tall woman either. I take my hat off to her, it takes some tiga to get in there and do that.

Jake: Oh, my God, can you imagine? These things are huge.

Bill: Bullfighting? It’s no scarier than value investing.

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