July 27, 2021

Accelerated memories of a monosabio in Las Ventas, journalist and lawyer | Blog The bull, by the horns


Antonio Álvarez Barrios (Madrid, 1934) is a fan of bulls from head to toe; for impressions, for feeling, for vocation … He wanted to be a bullfighter, like so many young people of his time, he fought a lot in the field, he put on the light suit at several festivals in which he acted as outstanding, but as close as he was to the Gloria was dressed as a monosabio in the Plaza de Las Ventas, from 1950 to 1960, next to the bull and the great figures of the time.

Son of a wealthy family, he preferred law and journalism studies to the fatigue of the bullfighting profession; He completed his training in the United States thanks to a Fulbrigth scholarship; there he founded the Bullfighting Club of Chicago, married and had a son. On his way back to Spain, he directed several companies of the Fierro group and retired as president of the National Association of Appliance Manufacturers.

A man of the world, of innate curiosity and vast training, a lover of culture – his second wife is María Corral, former director of the Reina Sofía Museum -, a media collaborator, among them, an endearing character, a fun conversationalist and Above all, he is passionate about bullfighting, the one he met in Madrid shortly after the end of the civil war, and this one he comes to punctually with his life-long subscription.

“I am 85 years old and I am going to fight tomorrow if I do not have a cow that demands a lot from me,” says Álvarez Barrios, who squints his eyes and remembers his beginnings in the ‘profession’ with intimate joy.

“José Tomás asked me to imitate Manolete’s walkway”

“I was only four years old when my father took me to Las Ventas for the first time to see a run by Miura, in which The Student and Curro Caro played, and I remember her perfectly. Those images were fixed forever in my head. I think you become fond of impressions; and, in my case, also, by a determined will. ”

To this contributed the hobby of his father, a prestigious lawyer, senior Cía. Transmediterranean, whom your child has surpassed in interest and knowledge, in his own words.

“One day that Joselito was fighting in Madrid, my father could not go because he played guard on the battery in which he served military service. Such was the passion aroused by this bullfighter that all the soldiers signed up for medical examination to get the service down. When it was his turn, the doctor asked him: And what happens to you? Well, I have two tickets to see Joselito, and if he accompanies me, we both go to the bulls. And the prescription was blunt: downgraded. ”

Álvarez Barrios enrolled in Law and in the School of Journalism, but neither the subject was able to remove him from his initial vocation. And in first of faculty he decided to become a monosabio of Las Ventas.

Antonio Álvarez Barrios and his wife, María Corral, at a barrier in Las Ventas square.


Antonio Álvarez Barrios and his wife, María Corral, at a barrier in Las Ventas square.

“I went to the square with a letter of recommendation from the Marquis de Valdavia, president of the Diputación de Madrid, and I thought it was a funny way to see bulls for free. How wrong I was…! They put me to work like a mule, to cut alfalfa, to ride the horses to give them a tired jog, to inject them (it is already known that these animals go out to the square drugged), to put the bibs … ”

“I discovered a very interesting world,” continues Álvarez Barrios; “A very enriching experience, I lived the party from the inside, had close contact with the bullfighters, and witnessed their concerns in the tunnel of fears; some drew strength from weakness, and others were victims of the enormous tension caused by bullfighting in Madrid, as was the case of Antonio Ordonez, who literally became ill at the gang door because he was aware of the requirement of the square.

The monosabio, who so often accompanied wounded bullfighters to the infirmary, also visited doctors as a victim of bulls.

“Two gorings suffered in the ten years of my career as a monosabio. The first, in the debut as novillero of the son of Chicuelo. A steer knocked down the chopper, I tried to make the remo with the rod, but instead of running towards the boards I did it out, and the animal turned me over and inflicted a gluteal wound. And the other was in the lower abdomen, when a bull got under the chopper and surprised me while trying to support the horse. ”

“The party has changed. Sales is still roaring, but today’s sound is different “

“But neither of them were serious horns,” reassures the bullfighter’s apprentice. And after a decade of experiences, anecdotes and shocks in the backroom of bullfighting, he left the monosabio uniform, studied for five years at the American universities of Yale and Northwestern, and back to Spain he resumed his bullfighting hobby.

“I have admired Antonio Bienvenida, Antonio Ordóñez, Rafael Ortega… and I have been a declared follower of Manolete. Being a child I saw him in two charity runs and another in Valencia, and I was stunned. One day I visited José Tomás at the La Fraternidad clinic, and he asked me: Have you seen Manolete? You liked it? I liked the way the promenade did, I replied. And he forced me to imitate him in the room. The mimicry with the figure of Manolete had him obsessed. ”

Alvarez Barrios confesses that he continues to be excited today in a bullring, and maintains the confidence that the party will survive despite the attacks he suffers.

“Live a delicate moment, it’s true. The assembly of the bulls is not as solid as before, and I do not know if the protagonists of the party are prepared to fight against the storm that comes upon us. The situation is to fight and not get carried away by the current. The fan will have to devote more interest and enthusiasm to the defense of bulls. ”

He adds that he is worried about the abandonment of some farmers, tired of fighting with the companies and the proxies; the attitude of leftist politicians, the animal current and the economic situation of so many bullfighters (killers and subordinates) who cannot eat from their work.

“The party has changed – and improved – substantially since my young years,” he concludes. “I have seen Las Ventas roar at apotheosis, and today it does, but the sound is different. I still get excited, and the day I don’t feel that passion, my heart doesn’t go out through my mouth, I will stop going to the square. But I hope to die before that happens. ”

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