Saturday, February 21, 2009

Remembering Conchita Cintrón

I don't like bullfighting. Sure, I've read The Sun Also Rises and watched Hable con ella - but watching an actual bullfight made my tummy so queasy that I had to leave early (just because the guidebook tells you that bullfights in Arles are "no-kill" doesn't make it true). So I was surprised to find myself feeling... inspired while reading about the life of Conchita Cintrón, the bullfighter from Peru who killed over 750 bulls - bulls that would have probably been content to mind their own business if sequin-wearing cowhands hadn't started sticking flowery knives in their flanks for the amusement of an onlooking crowd.

Did I mention I don't really care for bullfighting?

Somehow, though, I still want to like Conchita Cintrón, who became an enormously popular bullfighter at a time when ladies just weren't supposed to do such things, or do anything other than darn their husbands' socks while looking pretty, really. Cintrón, born in 1922, began fighting bulls at the age of thirteen. According to the New York Times:

Cintrón was seriously injured in 1949 in Guadalajara, Mexico, when a bull gored her in the thigh. Carried to the ring’s infirmary, she pulled away from doctors, returned to the ring and killed the bull. She then fell unconscious and was rushed into emergency surgery.

That same year in Spain, where a law prohibited women from dismounting to fight a bull on foot, she simulated the kill by touching the bull on the shoulders — where the sword would go — as it passed her, drawing cheers from the crowd.
I'm impressed by the spirit Cintrón showed in the face of discrimination. Surely her career challenged many stereotypes about what women could and couldn't do. However, my admiration for her determination raises the question - should we celebrate any female first that occurs in the face of discrimination? Since a good half of our readers are vegetarians, I know some of you will have opinions.

Conchita Cintrón died last Tuesday, at the age of 86. She paved the way for the female bullfighters who came after her, and remains one of the most popular figures in bullfighting history.


frau sally benz said...

I don't like bullfighting either and have never heard of Conchita Cintrón. I have to say that the thought alone of a woman doing something so closely associated with masculinity is fascinating. I'm a bit torn on this too, but lean more towards celebrating her bravery, effort, and strength in the face of adversity. said...

i am not a fan of bullfighting either but i think it is way rad that this women was able to infiltrate such a macho sport. that takes some ovaries, yo.

Anonymous said...

I think that being torn is an intrinsic part of the bullfight. An animal dies (not in the nicest way possible, but after a far better and longer life than a meat cow), but a human creates something which is sometimes awe-inspiring with that death. A 'torera' doing it add yet another layer of courage and overcoming to it, allowing conflict even in those who would naturally disapprove of the spectacle because the other layers in its facou are meaningless to them. Which only goes to show how are moral calculus is too often performed in the most subjective of manners. If you go to my blog, 'The Last Arena - In Search Of The Spanish Bullfight' (, you can read of another torero, Miguel Angel Perera, whom I saw also receive the femoral cornada, go to the infirmary, return to kill, then end up in ICU - only it was four months ago...
Alexander Fiske-Harrison