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What's the Matador(a)?

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By Gene Fowler
“I do not consider bullfighting a sport,” wrote Patricia McCormick in her 1954 autobiography, Lady Bullfighter. “It is an art, a science, a ritual…a mystery…more spiritual than physical….”

Patricia first experienced that spiritual mystery at age seven, when her parents took her to a corrida de toros (bullfight) in Mexico City. Back home, she dreamt of becoming a matadora. While other girls played with dolls, Patricia crafted matadors out of pipe cleaners and played bullfighting games. Her fascination continued in high school when her family moved to Big Spring in West Texas, and it grew into a consuming passion when she attended Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso) in 1950.

Pursuing that passion, she often crossed the Rio Grande to Ciudad Juárez, where, after much study and practice, she became a full-fledged matadora. She fought her first bull in early 1951, and joined the Matadors’ Union that December. The following January, she made her debut as the first American female professional bullfighter. Over the next decade, she fought in 300 corridas throughout Mexico and Venezuela. Six times bulls gored her, once so seriously that a priest administered last rites.

Though she entered the ring wearing Andalusian pants with chaps, a stylized short jacket with filigree ornamentation, and a flat, broad-brimmed Cordovan hat, she often envied her male counterparts in their glittering trajes de luces (suits of lights). During those times, she wrote, she would “remember that, except for the human animal, it is the male who wears colorful plumage, and that it is primarily a man’s world in which I will perform….”

Like Patricia, San Angelo native Patricia Hayes also found inspiration in the world of bullfighting. She saw her first corrida in Mexico in 1953 while studying at North Texas State University. When she informed her family of her new career goal, they tried to dissuade her from the dangerous profession. Undeterred, Hayes eventually fought bulls throughout Mexico, Ecuador, and Portugal. She too envied the matadors with their glamorous costumes, but performed with a style that earned her the nickname “the Grace Kelly of the bullring.”

Read 6440 times Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 13:06

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