For Matadora, Bullfighting Is Her 'Absolute Truth' Last Sunday, a 32-year-old bullfighter named Lupita Lopez appeared in Mexico City's Plaza Mexico — the largest bullring in the world — and was inducted into the tiny sorority of matadoras, or professional female bullfighters. Lopez has wanted to be a bullfighter since she was 11.
NPR logo

For Matadora, Bullfighting Is Her 'Absolute Truth'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/134623159/134633610" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
For Matadora, Bullfighting Is Her 'Absolute Truth'

For Matadora, Bullfighting Is Her 'Absolute Truth'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/134623159/134633610" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

NPR's John Burnett caught up with her last month at a bullring in south Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JOHN BURNETT: Deep in the thornbrush country north of McAllen, there's a bull ranch called La Querencia. The owner is a burly, 74-year-old, former amateur bullfighter who swaggers about and wears his guayabera shirt open at the top, macho style.

M: (Unintelligible).

BURNETT: In the afternoons, you can find him here in his cantina, listening to Spanish guitars, enjoying a beer buzz, and talking up Mexico's hottest new lady bullfighter: Lupita Lopez.

M: She's going to be great. She's got this quality, and this desire to burn and create art. You'll see it tomorrow.

BURNETT: Fred Renk is her patron in the style of benefactors who help aspiring boxers and opera singers to get a start. He and his friends put up $10,000 for her sword, cape and intricately embroidered suit.

M: We just took her on, and we helped her. She fights, and she fights well.

BURNETT: And she draws. On this weekend, he has promoted her appearance here at his bullring as the Mayan Princess.

M: (Foreign language spoken)

BURNETT: She will not talk of animal cruelty. Bullfighting is a medieval entertainment, but it remains a cultural fixture in some Latin American and European countries as it is in her own family.

M: (Through Translator) I come from a family of bullfighters - from my great-grandfather, grandfather, father, uncle and cousins. And so coming from this family, obviously, from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep, we talk about bulls.

BURNETT: Growing up on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, Lopez decided she wanted to be a bullfighter when she was 11. During her long apprenticeship, she faced the challenges of a young woman entering the quintessentially male domain of bulls.

M: (Through Translator) When I'm traveling alone, there are men who think that a female bullfighter is an easy woman, and promoters who think because they put me on a bill, that I have to sleep with them. I really think being a woman is an obstacle.

BURNETT: Why does she do it?

M: (Foreign language spoken)

BURNETT: On the weekend we visited Fred Renk's ranch, she will not conclude the fight by killing the toro bravo - the brave bull - with a sword, as is customary. It's against the law. She'll be fighting and testing vacas bravas - brave cows - to see if they have the valor to be returned to the pasture and bred with a fighting bull.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLING)

BURNETT: Ranch hands goad the skittish heifers into a chute, where David Renk, Fred's son and a former matador himself, leans down and glues a plastic flower onto their black hides.

M: You know, they have to go and take this off from the back of the animal to simulate the kill of the bull.

BURNETT: The stands fill up with tourists in caps and sunglasses, most of whom know nothing of the precision and danger of what they're about to witness.

BURNETT: We're waiting on Lupita Lopez, you guys, and...

BURNETT: Finally, she strides into the bullring in her blue and gold suit, a long braid falling down her back.

SIEGEL: The spirited young cows charge and jab with their sharp horns, just like their brothers.

M: (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

BURNETT: John Burnett, NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.