A torero is the main performer in bullfighting events in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. He or she is the person who performs with and kills the bull. The role is also called toreador in English (and in Bizet's opera Carmen), but this term (older than torero) is actually never used in Spain or in Latin America. The term torero encompasses bullfighters who fight the bull in the ring (picadores and rejoneadores).
Usually, toreros start fighting young bulls (novillos), and are called novilleros. They can start fighting mature bulls after a special match, called "the Alternative". At this bullfight the novillero (junior bullfighter) is presented to the crowd as a matador de toros.
The introduction of ground fighting became a means for poor people to achieve fame and fortune. When a famous torero was asked why he risked his life, he reportedly answered Más cornadas da el hambre ("Hunger strikes more painfully.").
The maletilla or espontáneo was a poor person who illegally jumped into the ring trying to show that he could bullfight before being taken away. While the authorities and the audience despised this disruption of the show, a figure like El Cordobés started his career in this way.
A matador, lit. killer, (from late Latin "matare," to subdue or kill) is considered to be both an artist and an athlete, possessing great agility, grace, and coordination. One of the most famous toreros of all time was Juan Belmonte, whose technique in the ring revolutionised bullfighting and remains the standard by which bullfighters are judged to this day. The style and bravery of the matador is regarded as being at least as important as whether or not he actually kills the bull. The most successful matadores used to be treated like pop stars, with a matching financial income, cult followings and accompanied by lurid tabloid stories about their conquests with women. Currently, however, even top matadors earn less in real terms than their peers did in the 1960s, and mass media coverage is limited to a handful of matadors known as the "mediáticos" and which do not include any of the top bullfighters in Spain. The danger of bullfighting adds to the matador's mystique; matadores are often injured by bulls and 52 have been killed in the arena since 1700. One of the most famous bullfighters in history, Manolete, died this way in 1947. This hazard is said to be central to the nature and appeal of bullfighting.
The American writer Ernest Hemingway aspired to be a matador. His novel The Sun Also Rises has autobiographical elements and includes bullfighting themes, as do his short stories The Capital of the World and The Undefeated. He also wrote two non-fiction books on bullfighting, entitled Death in the Afternoon (1933) and The Dangerous Summer (1959).
In 1962, A famous Hollywood producer, David Wolper, produced "The Story Of A Matador", documenting what it's like to be a matador. In this case, it was the late Matador Jaime Bravo. Matadors are considered heroes in Spain.
To protect the horse from the bull’s horns, the horse is surrounded by a 'peto' – a mattress-like protection. Prior to 1928, the horse did not wear any protection and the bull would literally disembowel the horse during this stage.
The banderillero is a torero who sets the banderillas (lit. little flags). These are colorful sticks with a barbed point which are placed in the top of the bull's shoulder. Banderilleros attempt to place the sticks while running as close to the bull as possible. They are judged by the crowd on their form and bravery. Sometimes a matador who was a particularly skillful banderillero before becoming a matador will place some of the banderillas himself. Skilled banderilleros can actually correct faults in the manner in which the bull charges by lancing the bull in such a way that the bull ceases hooking to one side, which can seriously endanger a matador.