Brave Conchita Chose Bloody Sport

I don’t believe in bloodletting of any kind (I don’t even watch “bang, bang, shoot-em-up” movies at the cinema).

So it goes without saying that I’m not a big fan of bullfighting.

But I am a HUGE fan of brave, gutsy, amazing women who dare to defy tradition and go beyond the boundaries of decorum to pursue their dreams.

And while I’m not partial to bullfighting, women who “grab the bull by the horns” and make their own mark in a man’s world are particularly inspiring to me.

conchita_cintron.jpgConchita Cintrón, a Chilean torera, is one such woman.

Born of an Irish-American mother and Puerto Rican father in 1922, she grew up in Peru, where she learned to ride and fight bulls.

She first fought in public in Lima at the age of 14, and made her debut as a novillera (a novice bullfighter) two years later.

By all accounts Cintrón was an extraordinarily skilled crowd pleaser who was applauded for her style, grace and bravery in the ring. On one of the two occasions in which she was gored, she was carried from the ring after she fainted. She refused treatment, returned defiantly to dispatch the bull, then promptly collapsed.

Her most astonishing performance, and perhaps one of the most dramatic in bullfighting history, was toward the end of her career.

It was 1950, in Jaen Spain, where it was illegal for a matadora to fight on foot.

Cintrón requested permission to dismount and make the kill. When it was refused, she was undeterred. She slid from her horse, grabbed a sword and muleta from a waiting novillero and prepared for the kill. The bull charged. Cintrón dropped the sword in the sand, stood her ground, and deftly caressed the beast’s bloodied shoulder as it hurtled past.

Pandemonium erupted in the stands as fans showered her with hats and carnations. She was arrested as she left the ring, for violating the law banning women from fighting on foot. But with the fans on the verge of rioting in protest, she was immediately pardoned.

Amazing Conchita Cintrón stopped bullfighting at 27, having killed 750 bulls. She died of a cardiac arrest on February 2009 in Lisbon, Portugal. She was 86 years old.

See more about her life here; read a beautifully written obituary here.