“We have a firm and univocal desire that bulls are held in La Maestranza in the way possible. We don’t care about the format, but bullfighting has to be present this year in Seville ”.
Who expresses himself this way is Luis Manuel Halcón, member of the Real Maestranza de Caballería, owner of the plaza, a corporation that receives around 22 percent of the gross billing of each celebration and dedicates 84 percent of that annual amount – between one and a half million and two million euros, according to the average of the last six years – to a huge and recognized charity, social and cultural work.
“We are delighted that the businessman has put so much enthusiasm in the subscription and estimates that it can only be celebrated if 50 percent of the capacity is allowed,” he continues; “The employer is free to act in the way he considers convenient, but there is a contract that includes the organization of a certain number of celebrations, and stipulates that, unless the competent authority prohibits them or the weather conditions prevent it, they must be celebrated ”.
“The Real Maestranza is part of the essence of bullfighting and we have an impact on its history, whether we like it or not,” he insists. “For that reason, last year, we hoped until the last moment that there would be a celebration, and so we let the businessman know every time he asked us.”
Luis Manuel Halcón is the teacher in charge of the square – a deputy in the slang of the corporation – and speaks on behalf of a governing board chaired by the lieutenant of his older brother, Santiago León Domecq, who, in turn, acts by delegation of the King Felipe VI, older brother.
The year 2020 was very special for the Real Maestranza: the 350th anniversary of its foundation by King Carlos II was celebrated, and Felipe VI himself went to Seville on February 20 to deliver the bullfighting and university awards granted by the institution. And the corporation also had a special commitment: that the season did not remain blank, which had not happened in the last 160 years.
Dumped with the bulls and their charitable-social work, the Real Maestranza shows its amazement with Ramón Valencia
But the Real Maestranza suffered a double disappointment. On the one hand, a very notable reduction in income due to the fact that the gates of the square remained closed, and, on the other, he was met with the very unpleasant surprise that the Pagés company claimed in court just over six million euros when considering the businessman Ramón Valencia that VAT must be excluded from the canon he has paid to the Real Maestranza since 2002, the date on which a new contract was drawn up after the end of the existing one until then, initialed on December 16, 1932 by Eduardo Pagés, grandfather of Ramón Valencia’s wife.
– More than six million euros are big words …
– “Very old,” replies Falcon. “We don’t have that money; We have an asset, but not liquidity, because everything we earn is dedicated to our social work. In fact, last year we turned to external financing so that the people and institutions that receive help from us were not affected ”.
– This lawsuit could weaken the good relationship that the two entities have traditionally maintained …
– “Very few teachers understand that we try to maintain a cordial relationship despite this. It is very hard, but we cannot respond and act viscerally, but rather rationally. We do not understand, however, the decision of the company to demand the disbursement of an amount that appears in a contract that the employer signed in 2002, -without being forced by anyone -when the VAT already existed, and which was renewed in 2011. When the other party asks for a sum of money that the Real Maestranza does not have and that, in any case, it should withdraw from its social work, our duty is to defend ourselves in court ”.
– The situation is complicated.
– “Very complicated, but, despite everything, since last November we have had conversations with the businessman aimed at celebrating celebrations. With a lawsuit in the courts – there has not yet been any hearing in this regard – what the body asks of you is not to support, but to demand compliance with the contract ”.
– And are you helping?
– “Of course; We are absolutely certain that, among the entities that participate in a celebration, we are the one that has lowered its remuneration the most for the sake of holding shows. I say more: we have renounced the canon of the two bullfights announced in this year’s season ticket ”.
– In 2025 the current contract with the Pagés company ends. Could the Real Maestranza consider a change of model in the management of the plaza?
– “I can not point anything because everything is so changing … Will the company want to renew the contract on that date or will it be in another vital objective? Will the Real Maestranza want to continue with this model after this difficult experience with a family that has sued us after repeatedly showing their satisfaction for 88 years? “
It is not often that the Real Maestranza opens the doors of their home to show the intimacies of their work or express their opinions and feelings. Until now, it has been an institution as traditional as it is discreet. Luis Manuel Halcón himself rejects any role and prefers not to be photographed.
“In 2020 we kept the hope that a celebration would be held until the last moment”, (Luis Manuel Halcón)
“We do not like to boast of our work, and we have always tried that the left hand does not find out what the right is doing,” says the deputy of the square, but it is clear that the communication policy has changed.
Being Spanish, Catholic, apostolic and Roman, monarchist, of noble descent and an exemplary person are the unwritten conditions to be a member of the Real Maestranza, set out years ago by the former elder brother Alfonso Guajardo-Fajardo, and that Luis Manuel Halcón ratifies .
– “Being a teacher is an honor that implies duties. We are an eminently monarchical, catholic institution, which obliges us to be exemplary people, and its members and families must belong to the nobility establishment, which does not imply that they must possess a title ”.
The Real Maestranza was founded by Carlos II, the last king of the House of Austria, in 1670, and ratified in 1730 by the first Bourbon monarch, Felipe V, during his long stay in Seville, who grants him the privilege of celebrating bullfighting festivities to finance their celebrations, and that today is their main source of funding.
The corporation for training in equestrian art and preparation for war was born, always at the service of the crown. The passing of time has modified its aims and, although its impeccable fidelity to the monarchy remains -the king has been his older brother since the time of Ferdinand VII-, the war issue has become a charitable, social and cultural work that in 2020 was recognized with the Medal of Andalusia and the Medal of Fine Arts from the Ministry of Culture.
“That she is noble should not label the actions of our corporation,” explains Luis Manuel Halcón. “That adjective does not imply more than proximity to the crown, but we are a foundation and a non-profit association, which does not receive any subsidy, and which channels the income derived from the square to society.”
The Real Maestranza is currently made up of 272 people, of which only 14 are women, called ‘ladies’ in house slang.
– “I know that we do not comply with parity, but there is no criterion that prevents the presence of women in the institution. My own mother is a lady. But it has been for centuries a corporation of men for its own foundational purpose ”.
Halcón proudly tells that King Felipe VI has asked them to focus on their charitable, social and cultural work, and to this they dedicate all their effort, estimated at between one and a half and two million euros per year, which they invest in needy groups -the Economic kitchens of Triana, founded by the Maestranza on the occasion of the coming of age of Alfonso XIII, serve more than 200 diners every day – religious orders, NGOs, the restoration of artistic goods in Seville, the sponsorship of the Foundation for Studies Bullfighting and the Bullfighting School of Seville, university awards for the best academic records, research awards and the promotion of equestrian activities and championships.
And all these activities are financed, basically, with the canon of the square, although the Real Maestranza also has the rental of premises belonging to the bullring building and the museum entrances, which it dedicates to the maintenance of its headquarters and its administrative structure.
“This is the fundamental motivation why we are willing to help so that bullfighting shows are held. In fact, we have already carried out the annual maintenance and remodeling of the square, whose budget does not fall below 300,000 euros ”, says Luis Manuel Halcón.
– Well, the employer does not stop complaining about the rent, and ensures that it is the highest in Spain.
– “We would have to ask him, then, why he pays it. I believe that the Real Maestranza is a very comfortable landlord from the moment that it does not intervene in the management and this is the most profitable seasonal place of all there are… ”.