The Demise of a Matador: The Downfall of Antonio Lomelin (El Greco).
Sometimes the Bull Wins!
The Demise of a Matador
Sometimes the Bull Wins.
I am going to start this tragic yet true story with a joke as it sets the scene for what follows. A young American couple entered a restaurant near Mexico City’s huge bullring, the Monumental. It is the largest in the world and can accommodate in excess of 100,000 aficionados, or fans.
A waiter glided past carrying a tray on which sat a plate with two oval pieces of what looked like meat upon it. As he was returning, the young man enquired, “What did you just serve that table, if you don’t mind me asking.” “Not at all, sir,” the waiter replied, “They are the cojones of one of the bulls killed in the Plaza, you know, the testicles.” The young chap smiled at his blushing wife, “Hey, honey, I have heard they make you strong, let’s order some.” “Oh,” the waiter said, “There are none left today, senor, you have to order them today for next Sunday.” Bullfights are only held on Sundays in Mexico and usually four bulls meet their death by the sword, so this only allows four pairs of testicles to be sold as they are only eaten when they come from the fighting bulls.
The upshot was that the young couple ordered a serving for the following Sunday and arrived promptly at 10:00 PM to await their order.
They were most disappointed to see arriving with the same waiter a tiny pair of shrivelled objects. “Hey,” the young man protested, “They are not like the large ones we saw being served last week!”
“Si, senor,” the waiter said, wringing his hands apologetically. “But sometimes the matadors loose!”
It is a fact that sometimes the matadors loose, and although no one really eats their balls, and the bull is still put to death, the severe wounding and sometimes death of the matador in the bullring is a far more common occurrence than people think. In my time covering the art of bullfighting in Mexico city for the local English language paper, The News, I saw perhaps 50 swordsmen and other members of the team injured badly; two men and several horses killed and only three bulls survive the experience as, due to extreme bravery, the bullfight judge awarded them the status of “indultado” and they were spared to become stud bulls and live out their lives like royalty back on the breeding rancho.
But the one incident which I witnessed first hand and has never left my mind since it happened in the Monumental Plaza during the 1970’s, was the goring, called a “cornada,” of matador, Antonio Lomelin, known as “El Greco.” As I watched this horrific wounding, I had no idea Lomelin’s and my life would meet again about 15 years later, but I am getting ahead of myself.
On this afternoon I was sharing a box with a retired matador, Pepe Silver. The bull has passed the first “terceros,” or thirds of the affair, and was just entering the second, which is the placing of the banderillas, or pointed sticks, into the bull's fighting muscle,( the final tercero, is when the main matador takes over, struts his stuff and capes the bull, using bravery “pundador,” (coolness under danger) and allowing the maddened, bloody beast to pass as close to his body as he can without moving or showing fear). In the case of the banderillas, there are specialists in the team who place these for the matador, but some swordsmen choose to do it themselves and do so with great style and panache.
Lomolin was never short of reckless bravery, but he did not have great style and his behaviour out of the ring: drunkenness, womanizing and debauchery in general (he went to prison for rape later in his life) had not influenced the crowd in his favour. Realizing this, the matador was really stretching the envelope and taking more chances than he should, given his level of skill.
As Lomelin ran diagonally up to the bull to place the banderillas, the infuriated beast fixed its reddened eye on the man and ran its needle sharp left horn into Lomelin’s torso, just above the pubis area, swinging him high in the air and, with the hapless diestro (swordsman) still impaled on the curved dagger, ripped him open from groin to sternum, his intestines escaping like steaming sausages as he was finally released and fell with a great thud onto the sand of the arena.
A collective “Ohhhhh” replaced the “Oles” from the crowd. The helpers, all with capes, ran towards the fallen matador and the bull hoping to draw the latter away from its victim. But Lomelin, surely showing the greatest bravery and alacrity of his entire career, struggled to his feet, gathered up his intestines in his arms and ran brokenly towards the barrera (wall around ring); as he finally exited what was to be his scene of greatest debacle yet fame, he screamed, "Me muero, me muero!". (I die, I die!).
He made it just as the bull arrived and with a toss of its mighty head, helped Lomelin over the barrera, more dead than alive.
Many people were rubbing their eyes in disbelief, but it happened all right - many onlookers, including the bullfight press, had photos. But the finale was down to Televisa, Mexico’s huge broadcasting conglomerate, which showed the matador’s operation on television the whole of the following afternoon. A team of doctors cleaned him out, stitched up the various perforations in his gut and stuffed it all back inside. Lomelin was extremely lucky not to get peritonitis, the curse of bullfighters before the advent of penicillin and the later antibiotic drugs. He even went back to fighting bulls and had a fairly undistinguished career, spotted with debauchery, arrest, and financial problems until he was found dead in a cheap hotel room in 2004, aged 59, either a victim of a heart attack or alcohol-fueled suicide.
And how did Antonio Lomelin and I meet again? In 1981, I befriended his ex girlfriend who had become disenchanted with Lomolin’s life-style and his inability to make any real money from his craft. I met him a few times and quite liked him; he was humble and generous to a fault then; shame it all ended like this, but not so unusual for those who fight Spanish fighting bulls and have to deal with the constant danger and the celebrity life style.
The “novia,” girlfriend, became disenchanted with your truly, too…well, they do, don’t they? But that’s another story.