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The Culture Vulture

About cultural things: music, dance, literature and theatre.

Remembering "PAQUIRRI", torero extraordinaire
Sunday, April 17, 2022 @ 3:53 AM

The Culture Vulture attended his first corrida de toros at the age of 21 when he was living in San Sebastián in the Basque country. His Basque friends urged him to travel inland to Pamplona to the Fiesta de San Fermín, which starts every year on 7 July, and there he saw his first bullfight. The torero was "Paquirri".


The Fiesta de San Fermín is the annual bullfighting festival in Pamplona where every morning at 7.00 am the six bulls for that afternoon’s corrida are run through the streets of the Pyrenean town from the stables to the plaza de toros. Aficionados a los toros, drunks and American tourists run ahead of the bulls to show how brave and macho they are (or, actually, how stupid!)

It’s called the encierro, the running of the bulls. There is the occasional death, but always plenty of gorings and/or tramplings.


So, off we went, Jane, Gill and I in the boss’s car – Toni lent it to me! We drove through the night to arrive before 7.00 am and take up our positions behind the barrier.

A gun was fired at 7.00 am and the runners set off, as 100 metres behind the stable doors were opened. Six fearsome looking beasts, weighing half-a-ton each, exited at pace, accompanied by several oxen to help keep the bulls together in a group.

It was all over in no time, as the onrushing people and bulls disgorged into the bullring. There were no deaths or serious injuries that day.


We spent the day wandering around before returning to the plaza de toros for the bullfight, actually six, two bulls for each torero.

Well, I loved it: the atmosphere amongst the packed crowd, the skill and artistry of the toreros and their bravery in making the kill at the end of their 20-minute slot made it a cultural spectacle that I’ve never forgotten. Animal lovers say it’s cruel, an unfair fight.

But it’s not a sport. Corrida de toros has been mistranslated into English as bullfight. It’s not. Bullfights are reported in the culture pages of Spanish newspapers, not the sports section. That’s why this article appears in a blog about culture.


Back to my experience that afternoon in 1971, the best torero was a little guy called “Paquirri”, just two years older than me, who went on to become the top bullfighter of his era. I didn’t know it back then, but "Paquirri" was from Ronda, where I have now been living for the last 14 years.

I had not heard of Ronda at that time. I only became aware of the place when I started to read books by Ernest Hemingway. The US journalist and writer was hooked on the bulls. He was a frequent visitor to Pamplona and helped to popularise the Fiesta de San Fermín in the English-speaking world.

Hemingway was also often in Ronda, the home of modern bullfighting. Pedro Romero (1754 – 1839), from the town, “invented” bullfighting on foot. Prior to that the torero rode a horse.

Hemingway’s books on bullfighting include “The Sun Also Rises” (entitled “Fiesta” in the UK) and “Death in the Afternoon”, both of which are still in print.


I have since discovered more about Paquirri, real name Francisco Rivera Pérez. He is part of a bullfighting dynasty. His father Antonio Ordoñez, himself a top torero in his era, was great friends with Hemingway and also film actor and director Orson Welles, another bullfight fanatic, whose ashes were interred on Ordoñez’ finca near Ronda after his death in 1985.

Paquirri’s two sons were also famous toreros. The older son, Fran Rivera, retired in 2017 to take over the management of the bullring in Ronda.

Younger son Cayetano Rivera is still active, but coming to the end of a career plagued by injuries, namely gorings.

Paquirri retired, but on an ill-advised comeback at the age of 36, he was badly gored in the ring at Pozoblanco (Córdoba) and died from his injury.


There was a TV movie in 2009 entitled “Paquirri” and a biography “Paquirri, en primera persona: La historia de una herencia”. Available from all good booksellers and


Tags: Antonio Ordóñez, Cayetano Rivera, Fran Rivera, Ernest Hemingway, Fiesta de San Fermín,  Orson Welles,  Pamplona,  Paquirri, Ronda,  San Sebastián,  torero, corrida, encierro


Like 0


lenox said:
Sunday, April 17, 2022 @ 8:59 AM

I have the framed poster from the Pozoblanco bullfight here in my den.

PablodeRonda said:
Sunday, April 17, 2022 @ 3:44 PM

Must be worth a fortune. If it's not (worth a fortune) do you want to sell it to me?

lenox said:
Sunday, April 17, 2022 @ 8:05 PM

I'll let you have it when I go (feeling quite frisky today...)
Will a photo do?

PablodeRonda said:
Saturday, April 23, 2022 @ 1:26 PM

That would be great. Thanks. Via WhatsApp? My no is 636 52 75 16.

Johan said:
Monday, April 25, 2022 @ 10:08 PM

Not for me, thank you. I am dead against bullfights and are happy to see the growing resistance.

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