Aficionados International

The Bullfighter

Every "matador" is a "Torero" (bullfighter) but not every torero is a matador.  Below you will find a quick overview of the different types of toreros and their corresponding roles in a classic corrida.

The Matador

The matador is the star performer of the bullfight. It is his name that will be announced on the posters, and him that people will come to see. Usually in a corrida, a matador will appear on the card with two other matadors, each accompanied by their "cuadrilla", their team of 3 "banderilleros" and 2 "picadors", as well as several of their non-performing support staff. The matador is responsible for the handling of the bull from the moment it steps into the ring until it dies.  He is in charge of and will instruct his cuadrilla throughout each stage of the performance; they in turn are helping him to adjust and regulate the bull's charge and behaviour, as well as to develop and maintain the momentum of his artistic performance.

Salvador Cortes in Seville Bullring

During each of his assigned bulls, the matador will utilize first the large cape or "capote", then the iconic smaller red cape, the "muleta", and ultimately the killing sword, the "estoque". While the banderilleros will utilize their magenta and gold-colored capotes to pass and position the bull, the matadors are the only toreros who will demonstrate artistic passes, and craft a coherent aesthetic throughout their performance. The matador's ultimate aim is to give a performance which is idiosyncratic in style and character, and which evokes emotion and excitement in the audience, and/or speaks to their technical understanding of the art of bullfighting or "toreo".

These days, most matadors start their career by attending a bullfighting school at a relatively early age.  They will start to perform in public with young calves, and then gradually progress towards older and more fully developed animals.  In their final stage before becoming a professional matador de toros, a matador will be announced as a "novillero" or novice, appearing in "novilladas con picadores". These events follow the same basic structure as fully-fledged corridas but are performed with bulls between the ages of three and four years, so called "novillos toros". If given the opportunity, a novillero can then be made a professional Matador de Toros. In bullfighting this step is called “taking the alternativa”, this is a public ceremony which will take place during a corrida. Two qualified matadors will be present to welcome the novillero to the ranks of professional matadors, one acting as godfather, the other as a witness. From this point on, the matador will be announced as a "Matador de Toros" and appear in corridas de toros, featuring male animals with a minimum age of four and less than six years old, and weighing in between about 450 kg and as much as 700kg.

 

The Banderilleros

Each matador employs three banderilleros who will assist him in the ring, and two of whom are in charge of placing the banderillas in the back of the bull during the second third of a bullfight. While all matadors will have trained specifically with the goal of becoming a matador, banderilleros are often former novilleros who did not get the opportunity to become a professional matador, or former matadors who struggled to gain contracts after turning professional. Usually a banderillero is recognisable for wearing a suit with silver or jet black embroidery. 

 

Nonetheless, banderilleros play a significant role during the corrida and, if employed by a star matador with many contracts throughout the season, they can also earn significant amounts of money during their careers. The three banderilleros are separated by rank into first, second and third. The first banderillero often doubles as the "peon/banderillero de confianza", the matador’s closest confidant inside and outside of the ring. He will assist the matador in assessing the bull, and is a source of general advice (often there is quite a significant agegap).

During each bull two of the banderilleros will take turns in placing banderillas, with the first banderillero performing on both bulls, alternating with the second banderillero on the first bull, and the third banderillero on the second bull. Apart from placing the banderillas, the banderilleros also play a fundamentally important role in managing the bull throughout its time in the ring. While the matador will strive for elegance and artistry in passing the bull with the capote, the banderilleros will focus on function, and on keeping the bull in the best possible condition, in order for the matador to extract from it a worthwhile performance. Contrary to the matador, who will try to make the bull lower its head while charging, for both practical and aesthetic reasons, the banderilleros are required to pass it in a way to cause the least possible effort from the animal.

During the matador’s performance with the muleta, the banderilleros will be outside the ring, positioned behind the "burladeros" (the extended parts of the barrier through which the toreros enter onto the sand), in case the matador gets tossed, gored, or otherwise caught out by the bull, so that they are on hand to perform a so-called "quite", a pass designed to distract the bull away from the downed matador. One of the banderilleros will also often function as the "puntillero", whose role is to ensure the swift death of the animal by delivering a coup de grâce, cutting the spinal cord of the bull with a broad bladed dagger, once the matador’s sword thrust has decidedly brought the bull to its knees.

 

The Picadores

The role of the picador in a modern corrida descends directly from the role of the "varilargueros", the horsemen, who, in the ancestral spectacles from which the corrida originated, used to display their horsemanship and bravery by riding against fighting bulls, and probing them with their lances.

Many of these riders were of noble birth, and this is why modern day picadors are the only class of toreros allowed to wear gold embroidery on their jackets, apart from the matador himself. Every matador will usually employ two picadors. Upon the beginning of the “third  of the lances” they will enter and ride out in opposite directions around the ring, close to the barrier, and position themselves diagonally across from each other on opposite sides of the ring. One will take up a position near the point of entry, and the other by the furthest away "burladero".

Their specially trained horses, which are supplied by the bullring, weigh between 500 and 650 kilograms.  They are fully covered by a protective coat called a peto" to prevent injury. The eye facing the ring is usually covered in order to prevent the horse from becoming alarmed as the bull approaches.

The picadors will take turns, with the first one riding out to the far side on the first bull, where the rules dictate that the bull should be pic-ced; while the other takes this role with their second bull. Once in position, the picador will work under the orders of the matador, and subject the bull to an appropriate amount of pic-cing, to ensure a strong performance from the animal, and to demonstrate its power and aggression.

Picadors also play an important part in the breeding process of the bull; many of them work on fighting bull ranches during their off-season, where they help the breeders to determine their stock's quality, and to select animals for breeding. Many picadors are heavy-set, to withstand the considerable force of impact when the bull charges against their horse, and to avoid being lifted off their horse. Unlike their fellow toreros who act as matadors and banderilleros, picadors are primarily trained on ranches and more often than not have chosen to be a picador from the outset of their careers. 

 

The Sword Handler - Mozo de Espadas

While not an active performer, the ”mozo”, is an integral part of a matador’s cuadrilla and his life on the road. Often a very close confidant, and not unusually an old childhood friend or other longstanding acquaintance of the matador, the mozo is considered the closest person to the matador. During the corrida he is responsible for handling the matador’s equipment, and passing and exchanging the various capes, muletas and swords across the barrier. Often he is also a source of advice and encouragement to the matador during and between performances.

Outside the ring, the mozo is responsible for helping to dress the matador in his suit of lights – a task that most matadors carry out like an authentic ritual, and which marks a pivotal point in their pre-performance mental preparation. In addition to being responsible for all equipment inside and outside of the ring, the mozo often fulfils additional roles, such as making the arrangements for the matador’s travel and accommodation, and handling tickets for his guests.

The Manager – Apoderado

Like the agent of an actor or musician the "apoderado" is the person who represents and defends the interests of the matador when negotiating with bullring management.

He is responsible for scheduling performances, and negotiating his client’s fees. For this service he is paid a percentage of the matador’s income. Nowadays some star matadors may be represented by larger specialist agencies, somewhat like the taurine equivalents of Hollywood or sporting talent agencies. Some independent agents also act in a double function as artistic director to their clients, frequently being retired matadors themselves. One example of such a relationship is El Juli’s current manager Roberto Dominguez, who was a highly regarded matador in the 80s and 90s.