El Cordobés

El Cordobés

[el kawr-thaw-ves]
El Cordobés, 1936?-, Spanish bullfighter, b. Manuel Benítez Pérez. The predominant matador of the 1960s, he brought an unorthodox acrobatic and theatrical style to the ring, working very close to the bull's horns, and became a national idol. By the time he retired in 1971, he had become the highest-paid bullfighter in history, despite the sneers of many traditionalists.

See biography by L. Collins and D. Lapierre, Or I'll Dress You in Mourning (1968).

Manuel Benítez Pérez, born 4 May 1936 (probable date) in Palma del Río near Córdoba is known as El Cordobés ("The Cordobese" - "The Cordovan"), the famous matador of the 1960s, who brought to the bullring an unorthodox acrobatic and theatrical style. Born into abject poverty in a village near Córdoba a construction-worker and petty criminal who dreamed of being a bullfighter at 23.

One of the original and dangerous techniques which El Cordobes later frequently demonstrated was first shown to the world at Anjucar. In stark departure from formality he waved his Banderillero (Columpio) away, then broke his banderillas down to 'pencil length' and after standing with his back to the bull as it charged, moved his right leg out moments before the bull was upon him causing the bull to swerve allowing him a moment to slam in the bandrillas from just behind the left horn. This maneuver was subsequently repeated in bullfights across Spain sometimes with even more dangerous variations such as standing with his back to the barerra and driving in the banderillas after the horns passed either side of him.

A significant career point was the his first appearance at Las Ventas, the bullring of Madrid, on May 20, 1964. An event watched on television by almost every member of the Spanish populace ended tragically with the near-fatal goring of El Cordobes on the horns of the bull Impulsivo. Twenty-two days later, Cordobes fought again.

By the time he retired in 1971, he had become the highest-paid matador in history. He returned to fighting bulls in 1979, after eight years of retirement. After an incident in 1983 an espontáneo was killed by a bull Cordobes was about to fight, he was much maligned by the press for allowing it to happen. He would continue to make occasional appearances as a matador until 2000, when he retired for good.

He has also acted in several motion pictures.

Today, El Cordobés lives in seclusion near Córdoba.

An early biography, 'Or I'll Dress You in Mourning' by journalists Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, was published in 1968 by Simon and Schuster. El Cordobés' story was also the basis for the musical Matador (1987) by Mike Leander and Eddie Seago. Poet Mike O'Connor included "Cancion del Cordobes," about the matador's breakout performances in Mexico City in 1964, in his poetry volume When the Tiger Weeps, (2005). "El Cordobes" was performed by the Norwegian rap artist Diaz

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