Return to Madrid

This coming Sunday, at six-thirty p.m. the notorious pabloromero bulls will return to Las Ventas in Madrid, which continues to be the most influential and important bullring in the taurine world. These beautiful but tricky bulls will be making their comeback after a hiatus of a three and a half years. During these intervening years the day to day management of the bulls has been passed from the hands of a retiring third-generation foreman to those of a (relatively) young man from nearby town of Villamanrique de la Condesa – Joaquin Morera Garrido. Sunday will be his debut in Madrid as mayoral (foreman): as the person responsible for the care of the bulls up until the moment they are presented in the arena. It may well be a watershed moment for the future of both him and these bulls, who have been struggling so much to deliver consistently in the ring since as far back as the 1970’s.


Joaquin and Joselito, aided by Mona the wee black dog and two steers (of fighting blood), guided three of the Madrid bulls into the corrals on Wednesday afternoon in front of a small crowd of friends, family and wellwishers.

Despite their decline in performance, the pabloromeros – who now fight under the name of Partido de Resina – are still the line of fighting bulls that have fought most in Madrid. In 1888 they debuted there, under the name of Pablo Romero, in the old bullring on the road to Aragon. Cuchillero, the first bull was awarded two triumphal circuits of the arena after killing eight horses. Note that the significance lies not with the death of eight horses but with the fact that the Cuchillero returned to take the punishment of the lance of the picador a total of 14 times (two being the statutory requirement in a first tier plaza nowadays). The regulations that govern the world of fighting bulls have of course changed with the times and the picadors’ horses are now career animals that wear armour.

Power captured

The awesome power of a pabloromero bull contained momentarily in the stocks as the foreman’s team take of the horn-coverings that stop the bulls injurying each other in the fields. That mountain of muscle can knock over even the heaviest armoured horse.

The Pablo Romero bull-breeding estate first fought in Las Ventas in 1940, nine years after the inauguration of Spain’s principal plaza de toros in 1931. Since then the bulls have been a regular feature during the springtime San Isidro festival. However, their return to Las Ventas will be to participate in a somewhat more modest series of bullfights designed to showcase bulls from “minority” bull-breeding estates. As bulls of unique blood and breeding, perhaps the grey-roan animals of the Sevillan marshlands will never reach the consistency of performance of the numerous breeding estates that rely largely on Vistahermosa bloodlines. These estates strive to produce bulls that charge with lowered heads and the slavish generosity that allows the great bullfighters to in turn produce fleeting moments of art in the arena. Althought they are fighting an uphill battle, Joaquin, José Luis Algora (representative and resident vet), Tico Morales (owner) and the rest of the staff at Partido de Resina are determined to both conserve the particularity of the pabloromeros and turn them into bulls more suited for the requirements of the 21st century bullfighting industry and fanbase.

Ready to go

Horns unsheathed, a four year old bull ready to go to the arena after a long summer of food, exercise and rest.

Having worked for nearly a year alongside Joaquin on the Partido de Resina estate I feel at once attached to the bulls themselves and attached to their destiny in the arena, where they will be confronted by three youngish bullfighters of (frankly) middling-to-low rank: José María Lázaro, Pérez Mota y Rubén Pinar. I hope both bullfights and bulls bring their best to the arena on Sunday. The hard work the team has put in to produce these bulls for Madrid merits a good result.

De promesa

Last Sunday, a week before the bullfight in Madrid, the foreman made a private pilgrimage on foot to see the Virgin of El Rocio 20-odd kilometres from the Partido de Resina estate. As they say here, the promise that Joaquin made to Her is between them and will remain so.

There’s nothing much more I can say until I’ve digested whatever happens in the arena on Sunday – I’ve got my favourites among the bulls, but until they sally from their holding pens I’ll be keeping quiet. I’ll be sure to carry a white handkerchief in my pocket, I just hope I get the opportunity to use it.


The lorry beairing eight bulls bound for Madrid rolls out of the yard. Suerte!

I leave you with two photos of Madrid-worthy bulls that I took this Spring – I hope they express my appreciation of the sheer beauty of these animals.


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