Morante de la Puebla remains one of Madrid bullfighting spectacle’s maximum attractions, not just in Spain but around the world. He is known not only for his ability, but for his uncanny appearance. This is also a publicity stunt that has worked wonders for him. He wears his sideburns long to give off the appearance of a torero from out of the past. When he struts into the ring it is like he has come out of a Time Machine and been displaced from out of the era of Espartero in the 1890s.
Morante likewise smokes cigars, both in and out of the ring. While smoking in many cycles has become taboo, it again fosters the illusion of a torero from the past. Eben in the world of the bullfighter, where nerves may be wrecked easily, there aren’t nearly as many smokers as in the past. While Manolete preferred cigarettes many matadores in the past such Maera, Belmonte, El Gallo, Juan Silveti, Espartero and Frascuelo were known for a love of cigars. The cigar was a trademark for all of them. Morante has revived the tradition and seems to be rarely seen without one in public.
Style-wise, Morante has also sought to revive some of the traditions of the past, reintroducing old capote passes that have not been seen in decades, while throwing in an occasional unnamed manipulation or two of his own. The same holds true with the muleta. It is however, with the banderillas that he truly excels and has again sparked a tradition from olden days. This again reflects back on Spain’s past.
From the 1900s into the 1950s the bulk of Spain’s matadores placed their own banderillas, but in thee 1940s Manolete who ruled the bullfighting in Madrid for several years prior to being killed, never placed the barbs himself without any effect on his popularity. After that, many toreros decided to just skip the banderillas themselves and leave it to their helpers. By the 1960s toreros from other lands such as Liceaga, the Giron family, Lomelin and the like were masters of the banderillas, while the top Spanish toreros were not. Throughout the decade of the 60s and 70s, the bulk of the top Spanish matadores did not place their own banderillas, such as Diego Puerta, Paco Camino, Linares, Ordonez and Pedres. They did not work with the sticks in spite of their top tier status. Cordobes did so when young, but was gored so badly in Granada while doing so, he decided to eliminate this from his repertoire. Oh, there were a few top Spaniards who would place the sticks such as Paquirri and the aging Dominguin, but critics lamented the general passing of the tradition. From the 1980s onward, some Spaniards rebuilt the tradition, but there were only a few who were truly great at this part of the bullfight as opposed to the past.
Morante and a select crew of competitors have started reviving the act. Though he does not place the banderillas with every bull he faces, when he does there are few rivals who can match him.
Often, when on a card with others who place the banderillas, Morante will challenge them to direct competition with them, inviting to share the sticks with him in a phenomenon that always uplifts the crowd.
In Madrid, Morante’s drawing power assures a large crowd, with tickets going fast. Thus again, do not put off buying a ticket fast if you want to see him. If he appears in some of the smaller towns around Madrid, as he also does on occasion, the ring will usually sell out.
The evidence of Morante’s fan pull is so string, his most devoted of followers gave created a name for themselves,. Rather than calling themselves aficionados if fans of the bullfight they call themselves Morantistas or ones devoted to Morante. Some of these people share no interest in Madrid bullfighting as a whole and only go when he is on the card.
So, if you are in Spain and want to see bullfighting in Madrid, but the name of Morante is on the card, again get a ticket as rapidly as you can, for they go fast. If you get to see him take heart as you will most assuredly not just witness a bullfight. You will see a modern man drawing from Spain and the bullfight’s past and long vanished traditions that he has helped popularize once more.