He was out of action for so long; his name would be meaningless to the newer aficionados. Older fans, however, might well remember him as a rising torero marred by tragedy.
In any case, long after the goring that took him from the bullring, Curro Ortega passed away a short time ago. He was 83.
Ortega was a popular matador in the late 1950s into the 1960s.
He was known for his work with the capote, that was at times, brilliant and for some creative faenas with the muleta. His only weak spot was with the sword. He did not always kill well and sometimes lost ears he otherwise would have won when he missed with the steel.
“He was such a nice man,” commented ex-novillero Walter de la Brosse who knew him, when informed of his death.
Among those who knew him before, during or after the Tijuana disaster that finished him with the bulls, this was the general position.
The matador had built up a huge following, especially along the Mexican border in towns such as Nogales, Juarez and Tijuana, He was also regularly featured in Toros Magazine, a publication from out of the United States, but with international distribution and popular in the 1960s. He was also featured in Ann Miller’s book; Matadors of Mexico He was likewise given a nostalgic spot in my Matadores Latinos from Floricanto Press in the USA more recently.
On September 25, 1960, Ortega’s career came to an end. As he worked with the muleta in Tijuana, he was caught and gravely gored in the leg, with the horn damaging the femoral artery. The injury looked even more dangerous to onlookers, for the torero was wearing a suit for lights of white and gold, which was splattered with blood as he was carried from the ring.
Doctors worked feverishly to save the torero, while on the streets gossip spread he as going to lose his life or at best a leg.
Ortega pulled through, but the magnitude of the goring was so bad, his career was over.
Ironically, gusty a month prior to this massive wound, Ortega had appeared in Juarez alongside Carlos Saldana and Gabriel Espana, where he gave two of the greatest showings of his life. He might have won a tail from both of his bulls after two magnificent faenas, but alas, as was often his trademark, the sword work failed him. In spite of his failure width the kill, he receibved thundering ovations and laps around the ring, though empty handed, for his effort. If only he had been able to finish off his enemies on the first try…..
On this afternoon, Ortega also thrilled the fans with his capote work, for which he was again reputed. With both bulls, he not only offered the stoic veronica passes for which he had gained recognition, but hair-raising gaoneras, where he held the cape behind his back and took the bull past his stomach several times.
Oh, what might have been.
To become a figura, however, was not Ortega’s destiny.
The bullfight took more from Curro Ortega than it gave.