October 29, 2020

Joselito el Gallo, the king of bullfighters, died twice in Talavera | Blog The bull, by the horns


“A very serious, responsible and professional man in the great and best sense of the term; a brittle health and religious person. And as a bullfighter, ahead of his time, a revolutionary, who had all the bullfighting in his head and marked the structure of the current party ”.

This could be the urgent portrait of José Gómez Ortega, Joselito el Gallo, (Gelves, Seville, 1895), on which the Madrid journalist Paco Aguado founded the spectacular work of a great biography that is now reissued after its publication in 1999.

Twenty years later, on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the genius on May 16, 1920 in the Plaza de Talavera de la Reina, the Sevillian publisher El Paseo and Aguado have revised the previous edition, added a hundred new pages and have just present Joselito el Gallo, king of bullfighters, the reference book on the figure of the Sevillian right-hander, who rediscovers the character, the man and the bullfighter, who died twice that afternoon a hundred years ago.

“The Talavera tragedy has greatly distorted the figure of Joselito,” says Paco Aguado. “He stopped short, and there has been much more talk about the circumstances of death and the morbidity that it produced than about his professional life.”

That is the reason why the author does not speak of the deadly fuck. “I am interested in Joselito alive, not dead; what matters to me is his legacy. ”

“Without Joselito and Belmonte, the bullfighting may have disappeared”

Joselito died twice; the bullfighter and his teaching died, and Aguado, a belmontista like all his generation through the work and grace of another journalist, Manuel Chaves Nogales, author of the biography of Juan Belmonte, has plunged into history, has been steeped in the opinion of old men fans and has presented a resurrected Joselito as what he always was: a visionary.

“I have found enough material to support a very clear thesis,” says Aguado. “Belmonte was a revolutionary of aesthetics and tempera, and Joselito in the technique of round-linked bullfighting, the essence of modern slaughter, and in the change of bullfighting structures to reach modernity. And I add: without Joselito and Belmonte, everything would have been very different; perhaps, the bullfighting would have stagnated, and who knows if it has disappeared ”.

The author calls him King of Bullfighters, and insists: “More than a king he was an emperor; Joselito was the Napoleon of bullfighting.”

And Aguado extends himself when asked about the contribution of the bullfighter from Gelves to the bullfighting festival.

Cover of the reissued biography of Joselito el Gallo.
Cover of the reissued biography of Joselito el Gallo.

“First of all, he is the creator of the modern fight, as I have explained before. Outside of the bullring, he was the promoter of the monumental squares in order to turn the bulls into a mass spectacle, in properties with more capacity and with cheaper tickets. Substantially modified the administration of a bullfighting figure. In their time, the proxies were mere accountants, and the bullfighters decided their own career. Two references to empowerment drink from his teachings, such as Domingo Dominguín and Camará. And another decisive factor is their encouragement to ranchers to breed a bolder, more complete bull. The nineteenth century bull was perfect for the first third, which offered spectacles in rods in those hard stretches, but as soon as the last third arrived it was a cowed and stopped bull, fierce, but tame.

“The new paths of technique and aesthetics that Joselito and Belmonte mark”, continues Aguado, “need an animal with more delivery, travel and duration; and he is the first, who has in his hands the power of bullfighting, who convinces the ranchers to change course ”.

“Did he send as much as was said?”

– “So much and more … We say the Golden age bullfighting, but it was the time when the least bullfights were held because the public was only interested in Joselito and Belmonte; and the latter always stayed aside because he was not interested in bullfighting politics. Hence, the well-known saying of ‘what José says”.

—The man… What was José Gómez Ortega like?

“Joselito was more than a king; it was the Napoléon of bullfighting ”

– “Very serious, very responsible, very professional and very dedicated to his trade, inside and outside the plaza. Religious, too, devoted to La Macarena and other Sevillian virgins, and of brittle health, with intestinal problems and feverish periods that forced him to stay in bed. ”

—A man, too, with an overwhelming personality…

– “He faced the oligarchy of his time, a mountain of vested interests that, somehow, ended up knocking down; but that cost him a lot of personal troubles, and I don’t know if his life too. ”

Aguado tells that the fact of being a bullfighter, “a profession still frowned upon by the upper classes”, and of a gypsy race by his mother, prevented him from marrying his girlfriend, Guadalupe Pablo-Romero.

At the same time, the Sevillian oligarchy, represented by the Real Maestranza, was upset with the project to build the Plaza Monumental, “financed by José Julio Lissén, a new rich man who was not supported by the upper classes.”

Paco Aguado delves into this fundamental episode of the bullfighting history of Seville in the 20th century.

“The Real Maestranza had exclusive rights to bullfights, which provided them with a lot of money, and a new plaza seriously endangered their hegemony. It was a long and hard duel, of which not much has transpired. The ideologist was Joselito, but the project would not have been carried out without Lissén. The square closes the year after Joselito’s death, but it is not demolished until ten years later. It is true that Joselito was no longer there to defend it, but its owner, Lissén, went bankrupt after World War I – he had invested a large part of his fortune in German bonds – and was unable to defend his position. ”

“And what was Belmonte’s attitude?”

– “He was a very uncle Fox. He did not want to enter that fight and leaned on the Maestranza. For this reason, he became a highly respected and beloved character to the point that he is the one who obtains the contract for the lease of the plaza from Eduardo Pagés for the term of three generations and which is still in force. ”

“Be that as it may, the truth is that today’s bullfighting exists thanks to this couple from the Golden age.

-“Definitely. There is an obvious fusion, a mixture of both, you cannot understand one without the other. More than rivals they were complementary.

—What a shame, Paco Aguado, that there is no Ministry of Time so that he could have traveled to Spain in 1915…!

– “That would have been a nice dream… A long time ago, I had the opportunity to have Joselito’s hat in my hands and my legs were shaking. Traveling to 1915? I think I wouldn’t even be able to talk to him… ”

—At least, you have had the opportunity to become Joselito’s Chaves Nogales…

– “I would not say so much; I am not going to compare myself to a journalism genius, but I have collaborated so that the concept that we have today about this great bullfighter is much closer to reality ”.

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