Though Sevilla is in the south of Spain and Madrid is in the center, this city too, has become a Mecca for bullfighting. A quick flight or train trip enables tourists in the capital to check out the attractions below.
Among Sevilla’s many attributes would be the San Fernando cemetery. A regional landmark of great renown, anyone can show you how to get here or any cab can whisk you to the scene.
The main attraction for the aficionado is the tomb of Jose Gomez “Gallito” or :Joselito” as he was known when alive. A huge statue adorns the burial site, depicting the torero’s coffin being carried about on the shoulders of mournful fans.
Joselito was killed in 1920, when for one fateful second he forgot an animal he was facing had a visual defect. The toro gored him in the intestines, most likely without even seeing its victim at close range. Twenty minuets later, the unfortunate star of the bullring passed into legend.
Joselito was and sill is considered to be the most perfect matador in history, capable with capote, muleta, banderillas and sword. One mortal mistake in the heat of battle, however, ended everything he did or ever would do. The bulls do not tolerate mistakes, even from the great matadores.
Joselito shares his gravesite with other matadores. His brothers Rafael and Fernando are there, who died from natural causes, as is his brother in law, Ignacio Sanchez Mejias, who as likewise killed by a bull.
Joselito’s brother Rafael. known as El Gallo, often chided Joselito because he would defy standards and accepted gypsy
superstitions. Gallo grew angry when Joselito whistled before a corrida or threw a hat on a bed. He deplored green costumes and those of red, where Joselito did not.
At times Rafael would turn and run from a bull simply because
of the way it looked at him and supposedly winked or nodded, as if to say the animal was on to things and the next pass would be the matador’s last.
Critics point out while Rafael was “an insane gypsy”: as Hemingway called him or at least highly superstitious in the
bullring, his sometimes absurd beliefs may gave worked. Rafael held to his superstitions and lived. Joselito rejected them and did not.
Near Joselito’s grave is the tomb of Juan Belmonte, buried under a modern art headstone that looks like something Dali would have dreamed up. The difference in markers is much like the difference in styles between these two men and their final end. Joselito suffered no major wounds in his career prior to the one that killed him,. Belmonte, however, was constantly gored and expected to die one day in eh ring, but lived to be old. No longer able to even fight small calves on his ranch, he shot himself in a fit of depression.
Other victims of the bulls are there.
One finds an elaborate tomb for Paquirri, who as killed in 1984, He took a massive wound in the leg, from which he bled to death en route to a hospital in Cordoba.
There’s Jose Gallegos who took the poor nickname choice of Pepete, for three prominent matadores using the Pepete alias died from horrible gorings, including this one.
There’s the rejoneador, Salvador Guardiola, who fought off horseback and was killed when he toppled from his mount, thanks to extensive head injuries.
His was a tragic tale, as well as an odd one. Unlike the stereotypical bullfighter in films such as Chantaje Por Un Torero, The Brave Bulls or Manolete, he did not rise out of poverty to save himself and his family from starving. He was already rich, coming from a background of horse and bull breeders still around at the present time. He did not face the
challenge of horned death because he needed to, but because he wanted to and this was his undoing.
Oddly, it was not a goring that killed this man, but a skull fracture, with trauma to the neck and brain. He was carried
senseless to the infirmary and never regained consciousness.
There’s Espartero, the prototype for the fictional Juan Gallardo in the novel, Blood & Sand. There’s Gitanillo, who was gored in the lower back but struggled for weeks, refusing to die until his battered nervous system could take no more. There’s Antonio Montes, killed in far away Mexico and returned to Sevilla for burial.
Other toreros who did not die from wounds received in the bullring also abound.
Maera, who was praised so heavily by Hemingway in Death In Yje Afternoon, sleeps in San Fernando. Like Belmonte, he was known for suicidal courage and took multiple gorings, but did not die in the ring. He suffered from tuberculoses. that eventually took his life.
There is the matador and bull breeder, Manolo Gonzalez, who was known for his artistic ability of the sand when he wanted to show it,. His grave is marked with a magnificent sculpture depicting a torero’s slippers and equipment with no one to claim it. The meaning is obvious.
Luis Fuentes Bejarano is buried in San Fernando. A man known for remarkable endurance, he made headlines for caping a full grown bull long after official retirement, to celebrate his 80th birthday. Decades before, when active as a professional, he was reputed as the finest swordsman of his time. He seldom took more than one entry to bring death to his horned enemy.
There are also banderilleros, picadores, bullfighting writers and amateur performers entombed in San Fernando.
Also near the Joselito monument sits the tomb of the Pablo Romero family, known for the raising of animals for the ring/.
While a walk through a cemetery isn’t for everyone, especially those easily upset nu thoughts of their own mortality, San Fernando remains a must see at least once for any serious aficionado.
San Fernando is a place where the dead come to life again. At least in memory and legend.