The Last Tauromaquia: Domingo Ortega, Rafael Ortega, Joaquín Vidal

Juan Antonio Árevalo

(Translated by Jock Richardson)


[The following is a lecture delivered by Juan Antonio Árevalo to la Aula de Tauromaquia de la Universidad CEU San Pablo Curso Académico 2004-2005 and published in their Estudios de Tauromaquia that same year. It may come as no surprise to readers of La Divisa I believe it to be a very important taurine document. They will not expect it to change my perspective on toreo very much; I do not expect it to change theirs. Although I think that (bearing in mind that we now have our own Dialogues with Death, a tauromaquia which post-dates the lecture) the title, ‘The Last Tauromaquia’, is a little premature, I certainly believe it to be important enough to be indispensable reading for every aficionado. I have therefore translated it for those fellow members of the CTL who would not have access to it otherwise. The ellipses are as they are in the original. Apologies are made for any infelicities of translation: I am confident that I have captured the meaning of the lecture - JR].


The three explained their ideas about torero, although none of them wished to formalize a text with the title “Tauromaquia”, surely out of modesty and respect for the founding fathers. Domingo Ortega (Borox – Toledo 1908) and Rafael Ortega (San Fernando – Cádiz 1921) practised toreo in the arenas and Joaquín Vidal (Santander 1935) was a writer and taurine critic.


‘The Last Tauromaquia’ is the expression and detail of what toreo ought to be now. Gregorio Corrochano in his book ¿Qué es torear? wrote that, “the value of the tauromaquias consists, not of defining or discussing what has passed, but in anticipating and giving rules for what we are going to see and understand. The three authors of ‘The Last Tauromaquia’ learn from history, analyze it, bring it to their own time by applying the experiences of each one, agreeing with it, adjusting it as necessary and defending that which has to be applied in the present and the future without forgetting that the art of toreo is something which is always new, which is created each day and in front of each toro, if the torero and the toro are worthy of the titles.


I am sure that it would not trouble any of the three to find his name at the side of the other two as authors of ‘The Last Tauromaquia’, collaborating in the venture as they never thought they would. I would have liked to have been in a group with them, with their permission, agreement to an additional member, and positive opinion. Domingo Ortega, Rafael Ortega and Joaquín Vidal (in order of seniority) make me feel at one with them as they agree and complement each other in what seems to be the last tauromaquia in history.


I knew the three and had the opportunity to speak to them, although not to an equal degree. Domingo Ortega, matador de toros, was a great personality. He studied toreo while performing it, thinking and keeping company with intellectuals, creators, cultured people. Domingo Ortega was a protagonist in books, films, interviews and reports, one of the last of which we owe to none other than Joaquín Vidal. Although his ideas about toreo can be extracted from his many declarations and discussions, there is no shadow of doubt that his Tauromaquia was expressed in the lecture he gave on 29th March 1950 in El Ateneo de Madrid under the title ‘El Arte del Toreo’. The lecture, published in La Revista del Occidente, and later in other literary media, was accompanied by some pages written by his friend the famous philosopher D. José Ortega y Gasset which ended thus: “The lecture of Domingo Ortega is a unique document in the history of tauromaquia, because in it a distinguished master of the art occupied himself in defining in detail the scheme of movements of which the technique of toreo consists.”


Domingo Ortega is one of the authentic masters in the history of toreo. Veterans, beginners, matadors and subalterns focussed their eyes, their heads and their desires on him. He hung up the suit of lights at 54 years of age, although he continued, while his sight and his legs permitted, to torear in festivals and in the fields, especially in the finca where his ganadería pastured. I was with him on five or six such occasions, when I took advantage of the opportunity to question him and listened to his profound opinions.


Rafael Ortega is one of the toreros who has fought best since 1940 until today. He was famous as a good swordsman, and such he was. But he was also an exceptional manager of the cape and the muleta. Few in the history of toreo have achieved such a high degree of purity in the execution of the suertes. He neither bent over nor twisted his body. His natural posture ensured that each pase was a work of art saturated with the dry courage of a great torero. Because toreo puro, the authentic, is the kind which has the most risk, Rafael suffered many cogidas, which frequently resulted in very grave wounds, a thing that is in the habit of happening with physically heavy toreros such as this one from San Fernando.


I spoke with Rafael Ortega many times. He well remembered (how is it that the toreros enjoy such good memories?) his earliest appearances, the beginnings as a novillero, a fleeting career which took him quickly to the alternativa when he was already 28 years old. Antoñete, another exponent of toreo puro said: “ The torero who most impressed me was Manolete, and the one who has pleased me most, Rafael Ortega, whom I consider the most complete torero and the one who has performed toreo of the greatest purity”. Rafael Ortega retired in 1968, but fought in a benefit festival in Jerez in 1985 when he was 64 years old. He directed the escuela taurina in Cádiz and never lost the opportunity to explain toreo to whomsoever asked him to do so. His book, which is entitled El toreo puro, was edited by the Diputación Provincial de Valencia in 1968. We owe it to Ángel Mayo, a friend of Rafael, and we can never thank him enough; he persuaded the master of la Isla de San Fernando to tell with all of his passion his theory of toreo. It is of extraordinary importance that we have this work, the thoughts of an extraordinary torero who has not always been justly valued, expressed with such great precision, for inclusion in the history of the tauromaquias.


Joaquín Vidal Vizcarro was my friend. I admired him for his kindness, for his seriousness, for his decency, for his formality, for his enormous taurine knowledge and for his exceptional quality as a writer. I spent many hours with him, many meals, many conversations. He died very early at the age of 66 years, and he never should have died.


Joaquín Vidal was the author of thousands of taurine reports. He wrote from 150 to 170 each year, writing for the newspaper El País from 1976 to 2001. La feria de la apertura (1976) and 40 años después (1987) are two admirable works which are still read with interest. On his death, the book Crónicas Taurinas, which brings together a chosen selection from reports he wrote about corridas celebrated in different parts of Spain, was published. The Asociación El Toro, of Madrid, rendered homage to this master of letters and published, in a lovely book, other works of Joaquín Vidal under the title Con su permiso, don Joaquín.


Yet where his Tauromaquia is best revealed is in a short novel which saw the light in 1987; entitled El toreo es grandez, it is obligatory reading for those who wish to know toreo well.


Why Domingo Ortega, Rafael Ortega and Joaquín Vidal together? They represent, in my judgement, the most relevant opinion about toreo after 1940. The Fiesta de los Toros, which has passed through convulsive episodes throughout its history, suffered its most decadent stage between the Civil War and our days, not withstanding that, throughout these years, hope-raising events were produced which only temporarily constituted a recuperation which was brought to a halt for one reason or another.


Between 1936 and 1939, many ganaderías de bravo disappeared or were decimated, a disaster which was taken advantage of to start a selection which was not always decent and was accompanied by fraudulent manipulation. Changes in the way toreo is understood - which is not to say that there have not been excellent toreros - have also produced low points. The public has lost interest, especially in most recent times, in a spectacle in which emotion, an irreplaceable basis for toreo, has been reduced.


Domingo Ortega and Rafael Ortega have been toreros worried by the moment in which they lived. They did not keep quiet. They denounced (above all the former) the evils which debilitated the Fiesta, and the two explained the most sincere theory of the art of torear which they exercised in the rings in an honourable and exemplary manner. They were witnesses to the changes which were being produced; they gave account of the lack of courage in a public which did not demand authenticity; but they also took advantage of praising the virtues of the good toreros, and there have been many good ones, who have passed through the Fiesta in the past 70 years. Joaquín Vidal, a writer enthusiastically dedicated to the defence of a fiesta without frauds or deceits, coincides with them in opinion and knowledge. He did not torear, but he wrote a great deal, a very great deal, about the bulls (he also wrote very brilliantly about other things) and always, always, with critical independence. He could have dedicated all that time to other themes, as he was repeatedly advised to do by Lázaro Carreter, but Vidal loved the bulls. His exceptional quality as a writer pointed towards him occupying a seat in the Real Academia Española de la Lengua, something which would have come about if his death, so cruel, had not snatched him away so early.



The rules, the canons of tauromaquia, are not dogmatic principles proclaimed in the 18th and 19th centuries and impossible to modify. Evolution takes place in human activities. What is not licit, which is not permitted by the very essence of tauromaquia, is an evolution which could end up in parody. Toreo is a creation of art and courage, aesthetics and science, and only with these components can it be maintained and respected. It is not licit that the animal, the bull, ends up being domesticated and a half-alive dimwit; only with the qualities of aggressiveness and bravery can it participate as protagonist in such a unique spectacle. From the beginnings of tauromaquia, the difficulties encompassed within toreo, tricks and advantages being rejected, have been demonstrated. Evolution must be watched over so that it is not mixed up with vice.


Let us offer a single example. Exercising the then prestigious office of picador, Miguel Atienza y Caro (Trebujena-Cádiz 1902) managed to do something which would prevent the natural flight from the horse of manso bulls, without modifying the essence of the suerte de varas. Atienza, who cited de frente when he found that the bull would not accept punishment and, therefore, would not fight, moved the horse so that the bull was enclosed, without an easy exit, applying the pic with increased force. All was well until the discovery of Atienza, valid to a bull decidedly bent on flight, was imposed in such a way that today it is common practice come what may and for all bulls. A vice has been substituted for what could be a licit solution in particular cases. Many other examples such as this could be advanced. Tricks cannot be justified as an inevitable part of evolution.


Throughout history, the tauromaquias have had an essential function: to fix, clean up and give splendour to the event which is the corrida de toros. The first Tauromaquia o Arte de Torear was dictated by the torero José Delgado (in the vernacular) ‘Hillo’ (Sevilla 1754) to the aficionado José de la Tixera, the first edition being printed in Cádiz in 1796. So the rules defined in the ring were first written down. [Tr. It could be argued that this was by no means the first attempt to write down rules for toreo a pie. In his Los Toros, Cossío accounts for several which predate Pepe Hillo and some of them have been published by la Unión de Bibliófilos Taurinos de Madrid. However, this does not invalidate the underlying argument of Árevalo.] In 1836, the Tauromaquia de Montes (Francisco Montes ‘Paquiro’ – Chiclana 1805) which Santos López Pelegrín (Abenamar) prepared for publication, was the most complete compilation of the norms and doctrines which had been written until then. The lidia was put in order and formulations and principles not hitherto dealt with were incorporated.


Later, the Tauromaquia de Guerrita (Rafael Gómez Bejarano – Córdoba 1862), which saw the light in 1897, was published. Guerrita was another torero largo as José Candido, Pedro Romero and Paquiro had been. The concept of toreo is summarized by Guerrita thus, “With manageable bulls, the most modest lidiador can shine. It is only with difficult and nasty bulls that the true art of toreo can be demonstrated. That there are a thousand ways of correcting the bad qualities of cattle is known to all. If these methods are not advantageously employed, the bad qualities of the bull should not be blamed, but those of the lidiador”.


It is noteworthy that the fundamental contribution to tauromaquia of Gallito (José Gómez Ortega ‘Joselito’ – Gelves, Sevilla 1895) and Belmonte (Juan Belmonte García – Sevilla 1892) was not written down, although they explained it in the arena and others wrote it down in an infinity of books. They complemented each other and marked the honourable evolution that toreo needed. Theirs is called, with reason, the “golden age of toreo”. Joselito and Belmonte are two of the great toreros of history. The death of the first at 25 years of age wrecked the creative competition and the initiatives which only a torero with afición and honour such as Joselito, with his toreo of quality, domination and personal demand, made possible.


Marcial Lalanda (Marcial Lalanda del Pino – Vaciamadrid, Madrid 1903) whom I will cite occasionally, also expressed his concept of toreo in the arena and in his oral and written expositions. Marcial has generalized coincidences with Domingo Ortega. We owe a book to Andrés Amorós, which he produced alongside (Marcial Lalanda) “the greatest”, in which he explained the Tauromaquia of the master. And it is definitely worthy of the title “Tauromaquia of…” for its quality; because of it, Marcial Lalanda definitely has to be considered as the author of a tauromaquia.


The contribution of other toreros after 1940 is admirable. It is necessary to mention, although only by quoting their names (to recognize their many merits and not to fall into confusion), a series of excellent toreros who shone, dictated magnificent lessons, contributed examples to the history of tauromaquia. Pepe Luis Vázquez, Antonio Bienvenida, Luis Miguel Dominguín, Antonio Ordóñez, Paco Camino, El Viti and Antoñete performed toreo very well and, in addition, were good toreros, following a classification firmly set down by Rafael de Paula. What does not serve and, therefore, we steer clear of, is what has been propaganda (of propaganda) like the tauromaquia of such or such a torero only because he has accumulated a huge amount of corridas and popularity, between vulgarity or taking advantage and defending the reduced bull.


From among the books about the Fiesta published in the past 70 years, some of them magnificent, it is only right to highlight the monumental work Los Toros of the academician and excellent aficionado José María de Cossío, which, in addition to being a necessary encyclopaedia, contains a treatment of tauromaquia which brings together the lessons of history without hiding the denunciation of falsehoods and frivolities. ‘El Cossío’, as it is commonly called, is the great book of la Fiesta de los Toros.



“The classical norms are eternal. He who departs from them will be at the mercy of the toro, of that toro which is truly brave and clean, with aggression and trapío, which we, from the public powers to the last aficionado, ought among all things to continue encouraging. We must continue to be unyielding with the classical norms, not allowing ourselves to follow the most comfortable route.” With this forceful statement, Domingo Ortega defended the Fiesta de Toros.


Joaquín Vidal has written: “The fiesta de los toros, ever since Cúchares, Pedro Romero and other fathers of tauromaquia converted it into a transcendental, regulated and discussed game; since Joselito elevated it to the category of a science and Belmonte to that of an art, was always a spectacle which developed in abundance…There were rules of good toreo and, if they have maintained the same validity from the first day, it is because others have not been discovered”. Domingo Ortega insists in the same idea: “…do not doubt, one must go to the classical norms, because they were perhaps born before the Romero’s came on the scene”.


With the bases of toreo in respect of the classical tauromaquias fixed, the contribution of new ideas, which in no way contradicted them, but, on the contrary, amplified and complemented them, bringing them up to date in writing and clarifying their concepts, arrived. The five rules are: citar, parar, templar, cargar y mandar.


In the oldest tauromaquias, there is no reference to five rules, not even in those written in the first 20 years of the last century. Up to Belmonte, they continued to apply three - parar, templar and mandar. It was Domingo Ortega who, in a profound reflection, added “cargar”, but he who ‘ended the faena’ beautifully, as his own toreo had been beautiful, was Rafael Ortega; he did it by placing at their head a new rule, “citar”. The Last Tauromaquia embraces, therefore, five rules. [Tr. Ámos Salvador y Rodrigáñez, in his Teoría del Toreo of around 1908 had already advanced three stages of a pase: citar, cargar and rematar. Whether or not he influenced any of the three maestros under discussion here is not clear. The book is another piece of essential reading for the serious aficionado.]


1. Citar

Rafael Ortega defines it thus: “To cite is to throw the cloth forward towards the bull. To call it with the muleta still is not to cite. It is also bad to call the bull with stampings of the feet. The torero who does that is not a good torero because to do it is to rob the pase; it is the muleta which has to be advanced and to cite”.


To advance and cite is the first part of a pase. To leave the muleta withdrawn indicates a renunciation of toreo, the abandonment of oneself to movements which in no case complete a pase and execute toreo. Rafael Ortega, in incorporating the term ‘citar’, gave transcendence to the initial phase, placing it at the level of the other rules. He himself recognized that, in doing that, he was motivated by the definition of Domingo Ortega. ‘Citar’, adds Rafael, is not to force the figure, it is not to lose naturalness, which would incorporate a flagrant contradiction to the toreo of natural composure which he practised. To advance the muleta to call the bull is to reject what has been entitled the ‘half pase’. It is the first part of a work which is ended with the bull dominated. Marcial Lalanda confirmed it: “One must advance the lure, catch the bull from the front. Today, on the other hand, they torear more each time with the muleta withdrawn.”


Gregorio Corrochano graphically explains the distinct phases, starting from the inexorable principle of ‘citar’. “If we start from position zero, we can differentiate clearly what toreo is. A torero is in front of a bull; he has a muleta in his hands; he has the arms hanging down; the bull charges; he does not move them and he is caught, he does not torear. A torero is in front of a bull; he has the muleta at a distance from his body but not advanced; the bull charges the muleta and the torero withdraws it; he does not torear. A torero is in profile in front of a bull; he has the muleta in both hands, supported by the sword, in front of his body; the bull charges the muleta; the torero raises the muleta and allows the bull to pass under it; he does not torear; the toro passes but the torero does not make it pass, as the railway crossing guard raises his flag when the train arrives at the level crossing and the train passes, but he does not make it pass. If, when the bull charges the torero, he advances the muleta and his leg and performs cargar la suerte, he performs toreo. A torero is in front of the bull; he cites by advancing the muleta towards it, he catches it, he performs cargar la suerte with a forward movement, it passes him and he carries it to where he wants it, and he completes the suerte without the bull catching the muleta. This torero is toreando”.


2. Parar

Domingo Ortega, who executed the cite in the best of ways described, started with ‘parar’ in the list of rules. ‘Parar’ is the instant which precedes ‘templar’ and ‘cargar’. The bull must be slowed down, the greater or lesser roughness of its charge smoothed out, the velocity rendered at the most adequate point to catch the rhythm, which will harmonize the domination. If the bull is not slowed down, that is to say, if the rhythm which the lance requires is not achieved, the work of art which is being attempted will be ruined. The torero creates the situation, but it is the bull that has to be slowed down. The movements of the torero form part of the composition at each moment that passes. The term ‘parar’ in the second rule does not apply to the torero. The torero, in the opportune and conscientiously effected movement created by the necessities of the lidia, also performs toreo. Domingo Ortega’s protest is curious in the light of the fact that it was said of him that he was the torero who best “walked with the bulls”. In the interview which Joaquín Vidal carried out with him and which was published in El País of 23rd December 1985, one reads: “‘When you walked with the bulls, maestro…’. I bring it up without the intention to offend, the very opposite. But the maestro was irritated, a little temperamental: ‘What do you mean walked with the bulls, listen? To let you know, I remained still!’ The maestro was not himself in accord with the formal or informal you, nor with the term ‘walk’ with the bulls, and he himself gives us the reason walking with the wild black bull, carrying it in subjection, because this – he proclaims – is the basis of toreo”.


3. Templar

If the bull has been slowed down, that is to say, accommodation to the precise velocity has been achieved, the bull “seeks” to become absorbed with the lure at the pace required by the pase. ‘Templar’ is to give the time that the torero requires, not that which the bull dictates; that would simply be to “accompany the charge”. At the same time, the horns must be prevented from catching the lure, but allowed to get very close to it. ‘Templar’ comes from the most ancient tauromaquias and is a term which has never been abandoned. Joselito and Belmonte, who, being so different, agreed on the most demanding principles of toreo, reiterated it, proving that different styles are very estimable values. What is worth nothing is divorce from the basic rules of toreo.


Domingo Ortega, Rafael Ortega and Joaquín Vidal make temple an undisputed commandment and they distinguish very well its difference from allowing the bull to pass, which is not to torear, even if the lure is not subject to being caught or torn by the horns. “Toreo is also temple,” says Domingo Ortega, “which is in the palm of the hand. In the thwarted desire to catch the lure.”


4. Cargar

Although it was always a practised principle, it was Domingo Ortega who included ‘cargar’ in the basic rules. [Tr: Pepe Hillo actually calls it a rule in his Tauromaquia and Amós Salvador y Rodrigáñez seems to be calling it a rule in his book.] It is more, he considers that ‘cargar’ is the most fundamental of all of them. “Without cargar la suerte, the bull enters and leaves from and to where it wishes; and no, it has to be from and to where the torero wishes”.


Domingo Ortega says: “The first man who was confronted by a toro had, necessarily, to cargar la suerte; the first man who mounted a horse to separate the bulls in the fields had to go forward leaning forward lightly over the neck of his horse; and we are not talking of the garrochista; at the end, all things which are done with bulls from when they are born until they die are beautiful on the basis of going forward. Imagine a garrochista completely vertical on his horse; as soon as the becerro resists, he will go backwards, and, in this case, the becerro will continue on its path”.


Domingo Ortega continues to speak: “I believe that the grandeur of the art of torear lies in la cargazón de la suerte; great is the lance of the verónica slowly cargando on the contrary leg [Tr. It is to be presumed that by ‘contrary leg’, Ortega means the leg on the opposite side of the body from that on which the bull enters the manoeuvre. Perhaps it is easier to think of it as the ‘exit leg’.]; beautiful is the suerte de banderillas cargando on the leg; beautiful are the muleta pases cargando on the leg; more beautiful is the suerte de matar cargando the body on the leg. Take into account that in los toros, when one does not go forward, one goes backwards, and the only one who should do that is he who opens the door to the bullpens.”


Joaquín Vidal, who bases toreo on “the greatest the advantage to the bull, the greater the security of the torero and the domination over the wild beast”, immediately explains: “In these rules, the action of cargar la suerte is the keystone of the art of toreo. Whatever toreo is exercised with cargar la suerte suppressed is not toreo…Cargar la suerte is produced in the second stage of the lance with the cape or the pase with the muleta. Here is the positioning: the torero situates himself in front of the bull. Literally, in front of the bull. Not giving way backwards, edging away from directly in front: which in the argot is called ‘fuera de cacho’. Situated in front, he will place himself ‘giving half of his chest’. That is to say, not necessarily face on to the bull, but never in profile: placed diagonally. The bull will be at the distance dictated by its bravery, its readiness to charge and the strength of its legs. Thus placed, the torero presents the lure. If it is with the cape, he will raise the hand nearer to the bull higher than the other. The leg on the side of the bull will always be ahead of the other. And the attitude of the diestro has to be natural, relaxed…On the presentation of the lure, the light advance of which will be enough for the bull to feel the darts of provocation, the aggressiveness which drives the blood of the toro bravo and incite its attacking instinct…When it believes that it has reached its goal, it will put its head down, to carry home its attack, but it will not carry it home because the diestro moves the lure, imparting to it the rhythm demanded by the charge. At the precise instant in which the bull is going to enter into jurisdiction, the torero, leaving the foot which he put to the side in position, will smoothly advance the other, and this is the action of cargar la suerte. What effects does it produce? Well, that the torero has gained terrain over the bull, thereby accentuating the danger. But, at the same time, as he moves the position of the cape or the muleta, the bull, in pursuing its prey, will also have to change its path. After this point, the lance or pase has a circular trajectory, until the remate of the suerte, which will be behind the waist. The torero will have ‘mandado’ in such a way that he will have placed the bull there, where it was going to charge anew, without him feeling forced to rectify his position.”


Rafael Ortega shows his preoccupation and energetically denounces: “What the majority of toreros do is to descargar la suerte: you cite from one side or the other and, in place of advancing the contrary leg, what you do is throw the other backwards: and this is not cargar, it is descargar. Good toreo is that in which you carga la suerte and support the weight on the contrary leg; and the last part of the pase has to allow that the bull leaves you placed anew without modifying terrain, because the most classical and the most pure is that, in the faena, the less you walk, the better.”


5. Mandar

If ‘cargar la suerte’ is the foundation of toreo, ‘mandar’ is the culmination of the work, which is meant to be a work of art sealed by the author. ‘Mandar’ gives unity to ‘citar, parar, templar and cargar’. For this Domingo Ortega says: “‘Parar, templar and mandar’. This is nothing! These concepts are so confused! The majority believe that ‘parar, templar and mandar’ is to wait for the bull to come and smash into the object without the torero moving; this is an error because, if you stand still, you cannot templar, and much less mandar. When the bulls have to be subjected most to ‘parar templar and mandar’ is when they have the most strength, and it is very curious that today, when better toreo than ever is performed, according to so many aficionados, so few toros are subjected to toreo with the cape. And why, if better toreo than ever is being performed? Well, very simply: because the concepts which define these norms are not being put into practice; therefore, toreo is not performed, pases are administered, definitely, many pases”. And it is that torear demands the compliance with all of the rules; if there is no ‘mandar’, there is no toreo.


‘Mandar’ has to be the inspiration of the torero in the plaza. There are toreros who mandan and toreros who do not mandan. Today, many spectators do not miss the mando, the exercise of authority over the bull, given the superficiality of the toreo which is facilitated by the weakness and the docility of the bull. At worst, the situation is that there is nothing over which to mandar.


Thus does Gregorio Corrochano summarise a report about a corrida in Toledo in which Domingo Ortega appeared: “At the end, a complete afternoon of toreo; toreo was performed; not for a moment did we have a bull which was in charge in the arena. In Toledo, it was the toreros who exerted authority, because they had authority. This is el toreo: that intelligence and courage dominate instinct and brute force.”


The joy, the pride of the aficionado could not be contained by Joaquín Vidal writing about another corrida in Pamplona “…the taurine essence of Santiago (he was referring to Santiago Martín ‘El Viti’), what he exercised in the plaza at every moment of the lidia, those intense moments, the depth with which he executed the suerte, has obliterated everything”. Joaquín Vidal was not referring to domination as the culmination of only a lance or a pase, but as a conjunct of toreo, and he united ‘mando’ to ‘depth’ as things which complement each other.



We can, we must, add another rule to the five just explained: ligar, with two derivations: to link the pases and to link the faena. Marcial Lalanda says: “One must not confuse the linking of the pases with leaving the lure covering the face of the bull. To link one suerte with another entails completing it, from one to the other.


To link is risky. The risk, constitutional with toreo puro, is very much greater than in the reduced game which on occasions aspires to be classified as toreo. The single pase, which on certain occasions can be opportune and beautiful, is not normal if we think of the harmonic unity which a faena ought to be. Lack of continuity leaves the work as much deteriorated as lacking in beauty. Precisely one of the things most valued in modern toreo, perhaps that which bestows most harmony, is to link each series and, really, to link the faena.


It is clear that it is only possible to link if one is complying with the rules for toreo puro. The other cannot be called ligar. Rafael Ortega says: “the last part of the pase has to allow you to place the bull anew without modifying the terrain, because the most classical and the most pure is that, in the faena, the less you walk the better”.


El toreo de capa


Joaquín Vidal laments: “In contemporary toreo as it is performed, no peón doubles the bull with one hand, nor provokes a long charge from it, nor runs it in the tablas. In contemporary toreo as it is performed this proving of the charge does not exist; a very beautiful suerte has disappeared”.


This forms part of the reduction of the lidia. Today it is always, except for very isolated exceptions, the matador de turno who receives the bull and delivers the first lances, which usually are verónicas or attempts at the same, at worst followed by chicuelinas. Rafael Ortega says: “Fundamental toreo with the cape is done with the verónica. The first thing to do is to choose the cape which is suitable, because there are three sizes: the small cape, the middle sized one, and the large one. I always performed toreo with the middle sized one, because I lowered my hands a great deal. The bulls stood on the large cape and took it from me. The pure verónica, that which twists the bull and dominates it is that which is given with the hands low, cargando la suerte and gaining terrain on the bull. The bull is stronger than you are, and if you do not start to dominate it with the cape, it will impose itself and the torero will go adrift…This is why I try to link deep verónicas, with the cape gathered in, cargando la suerte and drawing it along the ground so that the bull will put its head down. This I do as much on the bull’s entry as during the quites, which I almost always do with the verónica as well to continue dominating the animal, and always closing them with a media, because if it is well executed and you leave the side of the bull with elegance there is no doubt that you have also twisted it and dominated it. But if the bull attacks quickly you have to give it the appropriate lance, citing it, stopping it and gaining terrain towards where it is most convenient to dominate it, because the golden rule of toreo is to know which is the most favourable terrain in which to do that.”


Marcial Lalanda is not loathe to contribute to the opinion about modern toreo with the cape: “Today very few bulls are fought authentically with the cape. Why? Simply, because then is when they must be fought with risk: the bull enters with fury and one must catch it, get in front of the horns, cargar la suerte…In this way, the suerte lasts, more or less, from two metres before the bull arrives until a metre afterwards. It is enough to return to cargar la suerte to link, without covering the sight of the animal.”


The tercio de varas


Joaquín Vidal says: “The tercio de varas is the axis of the lidia, among other reasons, because in it the definitive proof of the bravery of the bull is tested…the majority of the small taurine professional world supports the idea that the tercio de varas be directed by the matador de turno and that it is he who should decide how many pics the bull ought to receive. It is a sign, however, of the short sightedness of these professionals. In effect, the matador could determine that the bull receive two puyazos, or one, or none, to achieve the greatest splendour in his faena, but this current proposition, in addition constituting a threat to the fullness of the spectacle, could produce the irreparable effect of ruining the correct selection within the herds of brave cattle. Normally, the first puyazo is taken well by the bulls and, if this were the only one in the tercio, all would look brave. In the second they already show symptoms  of the quality of their bravery. And it is in the third that it is truly discovered whether the bull is brave or not”.


The tercio de varas is crying out for recuperation, which each day is made more difficult. The “rock-hard suerte de picar” as Joaquín Vidal calls it, has to stop being so. The bulls must not meet punishment in the suerte de varas, but a test of their bravery, so that they do not go on to give the feeling during their lidia that they have lost that bravery.


Joaquín Vidal, very preoccupied by the suerte de picar, says how it ought to be realized: “The puyazo has to be, always, towards the front. See the tauromaquia of Goya, taurine chronicler of the primeval epoch of the fiesta: every puyazo that Goya painted was in the morrillo…Here the bull bleeds without its vital areas being wounded…the neck of the bull weakened and put into the proper position, the bull, will put its head down without having lost its essential strength.” Vidal, in defending the existence of the three varas makes it clear that they are neither three light pics nor the butchery of a lancing in the ribs. “Three varas according to the rules is the minimum punishment which a bull normally constituted will support without major problems, and, if it does not support them, it is because it is not valid for the lidia and should never have come into the ring…Three varas according to the rules allow the three matadors to intervene in as many quites, which accords with the artistic richness of toreo and the brilliance which the spectacle deserves…three proper varas, without excessive punishment, without the performance of the carioca, without closing the exit of the cattle…”


The tercio de banderillas


“The banderillero, in citing from far off, provokes the bull into making a long charge. It will constitute an attempt to accustom the bull to charge honestly, recuperating its sense of judgement of distance in open space…so that the bull will attack, always attack…” Joaquín Vidal explains it in detail, as if he himself was doing it:….”the torero advances towards the bull; slowly, step by step…he raises and lowers the arms so that the bull fixes itself on him. He does not raise them so far that the hands go higher than the level of the shoulders; for aesthetic reasons, nothing more; the orthodox, always the orthodox, constitutes the most meritorious, in tauromaquia it is that the torero gives the advantage to the toro; that he waits until the bull initiates the charge. Once it is initiated - never before! – the torero will run keeping his distance from the bull and ensuring that the encounter is produced at a point more or less equidistant from the respective starting points. There he will cleanly reach the face of the bull, make a frontal reunion, detain himself for an instant with his feet together and, whilst the beast puts its head down, he will place the sticks vertically in the morrillo. At the potential point of contact, he will already have emerged from the reunion and he will do so without escaping at a run: walking is better and as the canons dictate.”


Toreo de muleta


Rafael Ortega expresses in writing what he experienced in the ring, including what he learned from those he admired, such as the other Ortega. “With the muleta there are very few pure classical pases, but the truly fundamental ones are those which the bull seeks…the first that the torero has to do is to try not to curtail the charge of the bull with the muleta. The torero has always to dominate the bull, but carrying it well away; the torero who places himself at the ear of the toro, to punish it, does not torear. The charge has to be carried away as far as possible, but naturally, without over twisting the bull…The pase ought to be given as long as possible, but with a cite and with a remate, and leaving oneself placed to join the next pase.”


When one is with the muleta one must torear with the muleta, not with the body. The muleta held back is not only one of the evils which are repeated by many toreros today but what is allowed and, what is worse, chosen as being positive, and even thought to be brilliant, by some of the defenders of the reduction of the most meritorious, ensuring the transformation of toreo into simple parody. Joaquín Vidal rejects the muleta retresada: “one performs toreo with the lure and the bull is toreado from the front, not the reverse”.


Rafael Ortega stays with the natural above any other pase. He likes it for its “simplicity” and adds: “The natural is not pure if there is no cargar la suerte…one must carry the bull which comes with its head down far off in the natural keeping it in the belly of the muleta until the remate. The defect of many toreros, above all with the right hand, is that they cut the journey of the bull with the rearward part of the muleta, that most close to the body. These toreros have been told that toreo is a playing of the wrist, and that thus they bring the bull well toreado, but in arriving at this conjunction with the leg they anticipate a species of heavy wrist movement, they remove the muleta and leave the bull there without carrying it to the natural ending of the pase: as they do with a bull with the pase with the lure withdrawn, because clearly, the bull goes to this movement of the lure and you remain here, with that which neither goes far off, nor dominates, nor finishes off the pase, nor leaves the bull well positioned.”


For Joaquín Vidal those who abuse the derechazos make him ill. We remember two titles of his chronicles: “The derechazos cause a cough” and “The derechazo as an instrument of torture”.


So it is that the most meritorious toreo is that administered with the left hand. Of all the pases the principal one is the natural, which has no assistance from the sword and has to be executed in accordance with the basic rules of toreo. Rafael Ortega chose other two pases with the left hand: the pase de pecho going forward…and the low assisted pase. In the first “what is important is to cargar la suerte with the chest, throwing the chest forward…and the when you have gone signalling a path for the bull, the animal ought to pase almost touching you; in the exit, the elbow of the torero has to be slid above the back of the bull until the pase is so long that it has gone from head to tail”. The assisted low pase, which has the left hand as its protagonist, is, as its very name indicates, “assisted”, and assisted with the right hand. Rafael Ortega explains: “…one must give it slowly, without sharp movements, and ensuring that the bull does not catch the muleta. Thus, it is convenient to give it half way through the faena or, even better, at the end, as a punishing pase to confirm domination and to square the bull”.


To kill the bull


“The estocada is the culmination of the faena…If the bull is dominated it gives itself up to death, and the torero who has courage raises the sword, advances the muleta towards the bull’s front legs between its front hooves and goes in behind the sword”. With this definition Rafael Ortega says what is essential about the so-called “suerte suprema”, but in the detailed study that he makes of it, he continues, “The bull also has its place for the kill. In the suerte natural, you emerge towards the boards and the bull emerges towards the middle, and this is how eighty or ninety percent of bulls should be killed. There are other bulls which tend to the boards and one has to seek them there; the cowardly bull as a general rule seeks the boards to be able to defend itself, and then one must kill in the suerte contraria…”


“The forefeet of the animal have to be together, the rear legs do not then have so much importance. If the kill is to be a volapié you place yourself at some three metres from the bull or a little nearer. If the bull is dominated, then you can place yourself nearer…The stages are the cite, the mandar or templar and the cruzar. What is fundamental is to stand in profile between the horns with the feet in the same terrain, advance the muleta and then realize the three stages…The right hand has to be supported at the left nipple, at the heart…if it is placed at the height of the face you cannot make the cross”.


Rafael Ortega also practised the estocada recibiendo, of which he says that “it is the most difficult of all the suertes in toreo because with the muleta advanced, as in the volapié, you now have to perform the cite with the left leg and this leg has to return to the place from which it was advanced at the same time as the cross is made bringing the bull in with the left hand. The distance to the bull in the cite has to be two metres or two and a half metres”.


Rafael Ortega not only realised the suerte de matar with all purity, he also explains it in a manner which cannot be improved upon.


El toro


In el toreo the principal is the bull. The evolutions which the toro de lidia has undergone is so alarmingly and decidedly orientated towards making it easy to deal with, that emotion is lost and vulgarity is allowed entry. As is well known, the toro de lidia, which is an indigenous breed, has been for very many years an animal subjected to selection, which means that it depends on the breeder whether the style and capacity of the branded and numbered bull will be of one kind or another, from which it may be deduced that the evolution of the bull has responded, not only to the aspirations or tastes of the ganadero, but also to demands and necessities. Domingo Ortega has no doubt: “…the art of toreo rests on the bull’s inherent danger. If this great danger is taken away from the bull, at least this is the impression given to whoever is close to it, the art of torear does not exist; it will be another class of art, but the beauty, the grandeur of toreo, rests in that the torero derives the impression, although he may rise above it, which is no joke, that when it touches him it will wound; then is when the torero lives and, therefore, can produce the most significant moments of the art”. “And to derive that sensation, to cook this spice and bring it to readiness, history says: there are no more forms than the classical ones given by the Romeros.” Joaquín Vidal did not neglect the first impression produced by the presence of the bull: trapío. The so oft debated word trapío was given a definition by Vidal with an example included: “Trapío is that which is seen and which cannot be explained. Trapío is like the aurora borealis is the South Seas. Aficionados, for example, each time they go to the South Seas, at best are unable to describe what they are seeing, but they recognize it immediately, and then point to horizon with their finger and say, This is the aurora borealis señores!” “The toro de lidia has to have trapío, a pair of aggressive horns, ferocity. The art of the ganadero is in that this trapío is not elephantine and that ferocity contains the highest proportions of bravery, clarity and frankness. Many breeders in order to temper the bull to the measure of the figuras, have proceeded to effect the selection of their cattle on the basis of lowering the height, reducing heftiness, diminishing the horns and if they can be tiny and inwardly curved, so much the better; and lowering ferocity”.


Joaquín Vidal defends the selection of cattle by acoso y derribo which he explains thus: “They set the calf free and it gallops to its querencia. The garrochistas pursue it, they catch it up. One of them holds out the vara, points it to the front shoulder of the calf, gives it a push there, knocks it off balance and it falls tumbling over. As and when it gets up, there will be symptoms of its bravery. Then they allow a picador to challenge it. As and when the calf charges the horse, its reaction to punishment will also be symptomatic of its bravery”.


Joaquín Vidal summarizes the comportment of the bull: “On the presentation of the lure, the light advance of which is enough for it to feel the darts of provocation, aggressiveness will flow in the blood of the toro bravo and stimulate its instinct to attack. Is blood will be up, it will raise its tail, focus its eyes, tense the powerful muscles of its neck, draw in its kidneys and start the charge”.


Rafael Ortega wants a bull with all the virtues of good breeding and is excited by bulls which are exceptional. He laments having to kill such bulls and in 1986 advanced the idea of granting them the indulto, an idea which was included in the law of 1991 and developed in the reglamento of 1992. Rafael Ortega says: “The bull which ends up being exceptional, even when it has not been fought in a corrida concurso, ought to have its life pardoned”. But the reality of the decadent fiesta has provoked indultos which not only have been unmerited but have been the result of the flattering consequences of the reduction if the classical conditions of the toro de lidia.


The bull has changed as time has passed. At times this has been caused by the rise of toreros with great drawing power at the box office, some better, some worse, who have imposed the small bull, lacking in ferocity (some taurinos call ferocity “bad breeding”) and strength, which when not manipulated have had mutilated horns or been victims of substances which diminish the aggressive capacity of the toro de lidia.


The “administrators” of the Fiesta, los “taurinos”, “taurinismo”, have managed to drive the Fiesta de los Toros into deplorable conditions, acting without scruples to reduce or eliminate the emotion which is aroused by the bull. We remember the words of Domingo Ortega: “the art of toreo is rooted in the danger inherent in the bull”.


Domingo Ortega was a ganadero for many years, which helped him to study the toro de lidia in more detail. “It is very common, on leaving the plaza, to hear the aficionados comment on how brave the corrida has been, with their having thought that it is very difficult not only to see a corrida, but to see a single bull which is truly brave. In this we ganaderos have been very wrong, and our error stems from the fact that we do not see things as they really are; it is unnatural for the bull to be brave, in the way we want it to be in the lidia. As it grows its defensive instinct develops, because it has to learn to attack and defend itself in fights with its companions; herein lies the danger of bulls that have passed their fifth spring. It is in the latter stages that they reach their greatest intelligence or sentido and therefore their manias and their bad habits, and, naturally, their difficulties for the lidia”.


The public


Domingo Ortega, torero, ganadero but, above all, aficionado is irritated and exclaims “It is very curious to hear the aficionados lament about the actual state of the fiesta, and I would say to them: but how can you be surprised at this? Do you believe that this situation has emerged by a spontaneous law? No, gentlemen, it has had its process, and you deserve great blame for it; I say, great blame, because it would not be just to place all of the blame on you. Actually I do not know if aficionados exist today…I think that the aficionados are to blame because they have not been consistent in their convictions, probably because they have been supporters of the personalities of the toreros, but never, or almost never, conscious of the good norms of the practice of the art…”


Joaquín Vidal reclaims the presence of the aficionado puro: “The first thing on the cartel that interests the aficionado puro is the ganadería and the hour at which the corrida is due to start. The matadors, while they are very important, are a secondary factor in his motivations, because, no matter who is going to torear, he will go to the festejo in any case. He is not in the habit of adhering to groups of supporters and will praise to the heights the performance of a torero one afternoon, and destroy him analytically the next…His demand is that the bull emerges intact; that the lidia is in accordance with the rules; that the president complies and makes others comply with the regulations…The pure aficionado is belligerent against everything that goes against the authenticity of the spectacle, with that which tries to denaturalise it. But he is not intransigent to extremes, because, in the opposite sense, when there is an integral bull, true lidia, merit in the lidiador, he is almost too kind.”




1. According to the Diccionario de la Lengua Espanola “tauromaquia” is the “art of fighting bulls” and “a work or book which deals with this art”. On occasions the title “Tauromaquia de…” has been wrongly used to justify the existence of deviations and vices in the art of toreo.

2. Domingo Ortega, Rafael Ortega and Joaquín Vidal have contributed ideas, opinions and theories which constitute the purest Tauromaquia.

3. The three coincide and complement each other building a defence of the authentic Fiesta de Toros on their experience and afición.

4. Starting from the classical Tauromaquias (Pepe Hillo, Montes, Guerrita, Joselito and Belmonte) “The Last Tauromaquia” neither admits reductions in the structure of the spectacle nor in the values upon which toreo is based.

5. With the contributions of Domingo and Rafael Ortega the rules of good toreo are augmented. To the three classical rules (parar, templar and mandar) are added “cargar” (Domingo Ortega) and “citar” (Rafael Ortega).

6. It seems necessary to add one rule more to those exposed by the three masters: “ligar”.

7. The added norms were always present in practice but needed to be recognized and explained as the authors of the “The Last Tauromaquia”.

8. “Cargar” is considered by the three to be the principal rule: “the grandeur of the arte de torear is rooted in la cargazón de la suerte” (Domingo Ortega), “the action of cargar la suerte is the keystone in the technique of toreo” (Joaquín Vidal”, “good toreo is that in which cargas la suerte and support the weight on the contrary leg” (Rafael Ortega).

9. The verónica is fundamental to toreo with the cape, the rules of good toreo being observed.

10. The tercio de varas is “the axis of the lidia” and in order to prove the conditions of the bull three varas must be placed in the proper place, the morrillo.

11. In banderillas the advantage must be given to the bull, waiting for it to initiate its charge.

12. With the muleta, the principal pase is the natural, the charge has to be carried through for as long a distance as possible so that one pase may be linked to another.

13. To kill the bull in the suerte natural and complying with the stages is the general formula. The suerte contraria is only used for cowardly bulls and those which are rooted against the boards.

14. The bull is the base on which all that sustains the Fiesta is built: “the art of toreo is rooted in the danger inherent in the bull” (Domingo Ortega).

15, There is a notable lack of exigent aficionados amongst the public.