A Debut

When a bullfighter appears in a certain number of novice fights (novilladas) without picadors (the lanced men on horseback), he can make debut in a novillada with picadors. The bulls are more massive, older, and generally more intimidating. Making your debut means you’re one step closer to becoming a full-fledged matador. Just a few days ago, Jose Monje made his debut in El Puerto de Santa María. The novillada (Spanish-readers click for a link to the article at mundotoro.com) was a good one, and the young Jerezano – who I interviewed on my last day in the city – cut an ear.

A debut with picadors also means that you no longer practice through your city’s taurine school. When I showed up for one of my few remaining days to train with the school in Jerez, homemade signs were posted at the bullring, advertising rides to Jose Monje’s debut with picadors in Algeciras. I remembered Professor Lozano telling me about a particular student that I should interview. I asked one of the students standing beside me before training, “Who is Jose Monje?” and he pointed out toward the center of the bullring, where Isidro was training with another student. It turned out that the student was Jose, and I had shaken his hand in the callejón five minutes before without realizing who he was. To my disappointment, he left early that afternoon without me getting to speak to him further.

Jose was scheduled to debut in Algeciras on June 23, but he never made it there. The day after I shook his hand in Jerez, he fought a bull “puerta cerrada,” and was tossed onto his left shoulder, resulting in a debilitating fracture of the clavicle. He had been training at the ranch of Antonio Gavira Martín, the same place where I got in front of a cow during a tienta with the Jerez school just a week or so back. Puerta cerrada fights are training opportunities for bullfighters and there is no audience nor any sort of medical support. Though a bull’s horns horns may be shaved down and rounded off, there is still considerable danger.

On my last day in Jerez, I caught up with the torero at his apartment for an interview. Jose is an excellent example of a young student from the school who has essentially graduated (though there’s no formal ceremony) into the world of professionals. The interview went very smoothly and I was pleased with the overall experience.

On my way out the door, his father told me that he anticipates seeing me again, somewhere among the aficionados of the bullfighting world. I continue to wonder about the possibilities that it holds and look forward to returning to Spain again someday soon.



  1. That sounds so exciting! Did you get much training before you were in the ring with the cow?