Álvaro Múnera: This photo is not what it seems…

The above photo has been doing the rounds on the internet with claims it is Álvaro Múnera Builes, a Colombian animal rights activist who worked briefly as a bullfighter in his youth under the name ‘El Pilarico’ in Colombia and then Spain. With the image comes these words, also claiming to be from Múnera.

And suddenly, I looked at the bull. He had this innocence that all animals have in their eyes, and he looked at me with this pleading. It was like a cry for justice, deep down inside of me. I describe it as being like a prayer – because if one confesses, it is hoped, that one is forgiven. I felt like the worst shit on earth.

In fact, not only is this not true, it could not be true, not least because the matador in the photo is actually Francisco Javier Sánchez Vara, pictured right. While the words come from an article by the author and melodramatist Antonio Gala Velasco in the Spanish newspaper El País in 1995.

Below is how Múnera actually looked in the ‘suit of lights’ of a novillero. A novillero is a novice bullfighter. Múnera never even became a matador, let alone a famous one.

However, the most compelling reason that photo can have had nothing to do with Múnera is that he did not leave bullfighting because of some conversion in the bullring; quite the reverse. It was the bull that made him leave.

In 1984 a bull called ‘Terciopelo’, from the breed of Marqués de Villagodio, caught him in the foot and tossed him across the ring, fracturing the fifth cervical vertebrae in his neck – along with other injuries – which rendered him permanently paraplegic.

It was only later after he had been transferred from hospital in Spain to a recuperative facility in Miami to be closer to his relatives in Colombia that he developed a ‘moral’ problem with bullfighting. According to his own account, it was the doctors, nurses, other patients and their families treating him with contempt because of his bullfighting past which caused the change. In his own words, he converted to their point of view because “there are more of them, they must be right.”

Whatever you think of this as a reason for revising the moral code by which you have lived your life, it is clear that it was not the behaviour of a bull while dying that caused this man to end his run of 150 bulls killed.

So, what is the actual matador, Sánchez Vara, doing in the photo? Well, he might be crossing himself or he might be wiping away a bead of sweat, but whatever he is doing, the reason he is sitting down in the path a dying bull as it walks along the barrier has nothing to do with despair. Which is why you can see the situation exactly replicated below by the matador Sebastian Castella.

Sitting on the ‘strip’ around the ring after the sword has been placed in the bull is a known desplante, or act of defiance, within the part-scripted, part-improvised spectacle that is the corrida de toros. Whatever the corrida is, it is certainly not a fight (the English word bull-fight derives from our foul old pasttime of baiting bulls with dogs), and the concept of fairness or sport no more enters into the corrida than it does the slaughterhouse.

Which is why the man in this photo is still working as a matador across Spain, indeed, if you can read Spanish, you can read about an afternoon as recently as April 2012 when he killed six bulls on his own here.

Whatever you feel about bullfighting, there is no excuse for dishonesty – from either side of the debate. And before decisions on a subject are made, it is worth understanding it first. The information above came from the award-winning book Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight by Alexander Fiske-Harrison – available on Kindle (in the US here, the UK hereAustralia, Canada IndiaSpain, Mexico, France, Italy, Germany, Japan and Brazil) and iTunes. As the newspapers said:

What makes the book work is that the author never loses his disgust for bullfighting… compelling and lyrical. Daily Mail *****

It’s to Fiske-Harrison’s credit that he never gets over his moral qualms…. an engrossing introduction to bullfighting. Financial Times

It is this world of glamour, fame and death that Fiske-Harrison penetrates in search of a solution to the “terrible quandary” of bullfighting. The outcome is a debut that provides an engrossing introduction to Spain’s “great feast of art and danger”. The Times (of London)

The book on bullfighting. The New York Times

Uneasy ethical dilemmas abound, not least the recurring question of how much suffering the animals are put through… a compelling read. Daily Telegraph

The definitive guide on the state of modern-day bullfighting. The Independent

The question of whether a modern society should endorse animal suffering as entertainment is bound to cross the mind of any casual visitor to a bullfight. Alexander Fiske-Harrison first tussled with the issue in his early twenties and, as a student of both philosophy and biology, has perhaps tussled with it more lengthily and cogently than most of us… particularly good… eloquence and precision. The Literary Review

He brings to the polarised discussion of bullfighting a level of nuance where his opponents bring only more dissimulation. The quality that makes the final chapter of Hemingway’s Death In The Afternoon the most intoxicating pervades Fiske-Harrison’s in its entirety. The Australian

From the very beginning, Fiske-Harrison makes it clear this will not be simply another book about the act of bullfighting, but rather a philosophical inquiry into the subject, trying to decipher its ethics or lack thereof… Into the Arena is truly remarkable. The grit and sweat of these characters is conveyed in tightly wrought prose. The Prague Post

To his credit, Fiske-Harrison acknowledges the morally questionable nature of the bullfight. And the book contains interesting explorations of concepts such as fear, bravery and drive.”
League Against Cruel Sports

A larger than life character. A hugely enjoyable and easy read. Moving and instructive.
Club Taurino of London

Arguably the most engaging study of bullfighting by an English speaker since Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon. His willingness to get his hands dirty, and his eye for detail, make this a compelling read for anyone interested in Spain’s ‘national fiesta’. Controversial, thought-provoking and highly recommended.
Jason Webster, author of Duende: A Journey In Search Of Flamenco


Nominated and shortlisted for

(With thanks to Reinhard Keck from Bild am Sonntag, 6Toros6 and Dave Johnson for additional research)

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  1. I just shared this post on Facebook as an example of why people should fact-check their memes before sharing. Thanks for championing factual accuracy!

  2. AFH, had you already seen this before I linked on the prior blog post, or was that the first time you saw it, if so I think I deserve an acknowledgement for bringing it to your attention, I also don’t if anyone can tell for sure why this guys is reacting this way it could be any of the explanations offered or he could be remorseful, but after looking at the zoomed in image, it seems more likely that he is not remorseful about the bull.

  3. Another thing, Munero really exaggerated how prestigious in bull fighting in his interview with Radio Netherlands. He acted like he was the biggest matador in Colombia.

  4. Debbie Jeffrey says:

    I went looking for some more information on this photo after I saw it on a Facebook page yesterday, & eventually did come across Munera’s real story. What I found truly fascinating, though, when I googled it, was the number of times (100s, probably 1,000s) the photo & (fictitious) story has been re-blogged/copied/etc. People really want to believe it. There’s a real yearning for stories like this – of people connecting with and being affected by animals; of people turning away from questionable traditions with sensitivity and courage. That part I find really interesting. Thanks, Alexander.
    (PS. do you count yourself as half-Australian?).

  5. If Alexander wishes to delete comments, he can. Especially when some of the comments I have been reading on here are absolute drivel.

  6. Taurine Bibliophile says:

    “I think we can safely say that the matador was striking a common pose of triumph by sitting with impunity in the path of the dying bull. However, it does look close up like the matador has his head in his hand in resignation, annoyance or despair. This is most likely because the bull has taken far, far longer to die than he had expected…”

    Correct interpretation, even without knowing this specific situation. I have also witnessed matadors using religious gestures/crosses as if calling on help and mercy for the bull’s death.

  7. What I was going to say if the photograph was real (along with the comments doing the rounds) was:

    Much respect to this man, it must have been extremely difficult for this man to look at the situation objectively given that this is his profession, and something that he must have partaken in for a long period of time.

    Most in that situation attempt to justify the actions to extremes because they can’t face the reality that what they’ve been doing has actually been terrible and a horrible misjudgement.

    It’s a barbaric and worthless activity, will be good to see an end to bull fighting.

    Now that I read your blog post, this must change to:

    How unfortunate, but like I said, most people would justify the behaviour to extremes before ever coming to the realisation that their past actions are horrible unjustifiable.

  8. Just wondering, I’m new to facebook and not sure how it works yet. I found the above picture and story of this bullfighter’s sudden awakening and thought it was awesome so I “liked” it and shared it on my own wall. The next day I found it had disappeared from my page as well as the person’s page I got it from. I had thought that was strange. Now I see that the story was fake so I wonder if the person who posted it is able to delete not only his own post but everyone who shared it across the board. Like a mass deletion. Now this may very well be a facebook question, but my point being that I would not have deleted it off my page yet but rather left it up for awhile with a comment that I had discovered the picture was fake, but still, this is the sort of thing our world truly needs to see happening in real life, We need to wake up.

  9. I’m guessing that Mark followed a link from Facebook and thought this blog was actually part of that site…

  10. maria zorrilla says:

    obviously the photo used, a misrepresentation, but Álvaro Múnera had nothing to do with it. for the rest, Álvaro Múnera’s own life and endeavors since his bullfighting …sometimes an alcoholic, a drug addict, a gambler… has to hit bottom and lose everything before the realizes their own truth, or what is right and wrong for themselves… what they believe in. doesn’t need to be the same as what you believe. doesn’t make their redemption any less important or valid. it will be a long time before all of us agree on how we should perceive and treat animals. for that matter, in some nations, how we view and treat – women, children, immigrants, minorities, et al. also, I couldn’t tell from this post, did you ever personally interview Álvaro Múnera? or simple speak to him and ask, or accuse…poise these question face to face?

  11. maria zorrilla says:

    maybe you should do an interview… write an article… this is the most recent I could find


  12. maria zorrilla says:

    audio interview – have a listen. he’s a human being just like you and me. not bombastic, simply telling his story.


  13. asdafgsadf says:

    i dont care if its fake.. i just care that it represents a great cause now… bullfighters are coming to an end. and so are the bull arenas.
    bull arenas are based on the principle of roman arenas.. but instead of using human slaves.. they use bull slaves.

  14. There is no justification for animal cruelty!

  15. I first saw this photo this morning on facebook and it brought me to tears. I, of course, like so many others felt that this man was feeling remorse over what he had done, and that the bull was somehow ‘reaching out’ to him …(I’m an animal lover since birth, so I tend to put them into categories with humans), but animals are far less cruel. Now, after reading the real story…I don’t know whether to cry more…or just be ill. Either way, I hope this horrible ‘sport’ is stopped forever…that’s on my Bucket List of things I want to see. Thank you for this article; even if it broke my heart all over again, and for different reasons. Very well written…:)

  16. thank you for the truth.

  17. john alonso says:

    THIS is prob the truth…….and said by Alexander

    Looking at the photo more closely, it is completely unclear where the sword has penetrated the bull as the withers obscure the point of entry. It could be well to the side, which would explain the blood from the lung, and thus not a very good kill at all. Your point media estocadas not always being bad is simply not relevant. And, even if it is in the right place, the crowd may still not realise it and the matador is reacting to their ignorant whistling, which often happens with media estocadas in low-rent plazas, as I’m sure you know

  18. the web community have done a good action telling a lie like this.
    the reason is simply, i think is more important the sensibilizations on stop killing bulls of an innocent lie.

  19. john alonso says:

    Dex you rather read lies then the truth?In recent history some democratic goverment(leaders)did lie about info they got and half the world believed them….result is a decade long war that still didnt ended…where the mass distruction weapons of Sadam?Sick if you agree with media using lies to acomplish something.This animals(toro bravo) have a great life until they go to the ring mostly around the age of 4-5 year old before that he got miles and miles of space to run play and do whatever he like to do i wish every animal we eating would have a great life like the toro bravo……your meat is from an animal that prob. never saw daylight kept in a small place where he stressed out and get crazy….decide yourself the 20min of “torture” not gone make up for all the suffering that goin on in the comercial food industrie….

  20. Ferdinand :) says:

    Why would you tell people who think bullfighting is cruel or who want to stop killing bulls to not only stop eating meat but to “stop other animals eating meat”? The first point I get, but the second … not so much. I personally choose to live with a mostly plant-based diet — and it’s not a big deal for me (I find it cheap, easy, and I’m pretty healthy) but I wouldn’t expect a tiger to make such a choice. ?

  21. nickyv9354 says:

    Can you not see what is happening here? This argument is just a continuation of the bullfight and it’s all about guys proving themselves right and bolstering their egos. It’s that sort of mentality that gets bulls killed in the first place.

  22. I was directed to your page after doing a search for the truth behind this photo. I too came across it on FB and wondered if the story of the reformed matador was true. I do not know why some people here have had a problem with your blog post, i for one am thankful you have set the record straight. Sadly, this story will be filed under the category “too good to be true.” Again, thank you for clearing up the confusion.

  23. You’re welcome. Thank you.

  24. Kevin M. James says:

    I found this post in the usual way–by searching for the real explanation of this photo that’s (still!) going around Facebook. Thank you for this informative, well-written post.

    I also have a query for you. Your book looks intriguing–I’ve long wanted to read more, from a balanced and realistic perspective, about the world of bullfighting–and so I followed the link to the Kindle edition at Amazon (US). Instead of a price, though, it shows the following message:

    > This title is not available for customers from: United States

    Is this a mistake, or is the ebook simply not going to be an option going forward for those of us in the States?

  25. Two quick comments:

    1. Your logical justification for animal cruelty is laughable. It is not cruel to cause animals pain because “pain in animals is in itself bad.” It is cruel to cause animals pain because humans are moral actors capable of choice, and the choice to cause unnecessary pain is itself cruel. The idea that bullfighting is the moral equivalent of lions hunting gazelle ignores the possibility of human morality. It’s like if you found a psychopath torturing kittens and told him it was wrong, and his response was, “Yea, well chimpanzees mutilate each other all the time.” So fucking what? It’s an obviously self-serving justification for your interest in this barbaric sport,.

    2. Thanks for clearing up the FB controversy around this story. gods know the internet doesn’t need more misinformation floating around.


  26. Thank you for an insightful and well-written blog on this subject. I also came here by way of a friend’s Facebook posting which moved me but also made my spidey senses tingle. Of course, it was a hoax. You are right to call it. Facts are important. Many of the comments to your blog are emotional and ill-informed but I think you handled all of them with panache. I am not a fan of bull fighting and do think it unnecessary and cruel, like dog fighting and cock fighting. My personal opinion is that placing animals in harm’s way for entertainment is just wrong. That being said, I respect that you have direct experience in the bullfighting world and your comments carry more weight than most on the topic. All the best to you in your writing career!

  27. All i’m glad is is that the bull “made him leave”. Finally, some justice for your pathetic ass. You are not a real man.

  28. The matador, whoever he is, is sitting on the estribo waiting for the bull to die. It seems obvious that this toro is taking longer than the torero thought it would. If people want to rail against bullfighting that is fine, but making up barefaced lies to support an argument is not fine.

    This is very much like the story that circulated on the internet about the founders of Stanford University in California. This story made the President of Harvard look like an elitist asshole, so it served the petty aims of the right wing anti-Eastern intellectual crowd. When I pointed out the factual errors in the story that made it impossible, one of my relatives chastised me, saying “You have forgotten where you come from (I come from the southern midwest and moved to New York.” And, even if the story about the Harvard President isn’t true, it is still a beautiful story.

    Oh, how one of my heroes, George Orwell, would have loved both of these fables.

  29. autumnmorning says:

    Thanks for being honest! It amazes me to see the way people have reacted to your article and the comments made through their various misinterpretations. It almost seems as if they are looking for reasons to hate and skew/distort meanings to justify their position. I am a vegan and feed my dogs vegan dog food. So I can see your point about preventing animals causing pain to others. I don’t feel it right for another animal to suffer and die so that my dogs can be fed. My Yorkie is 15 yrs. and my Siberian Husky is 12yrs. They are both in good health. So I don’t need to hear from anyone that dogs “have” to eat meat. I in now way, interpreted that as you meant it to apply to wild animals -only to animals we keep as pets. I agree with your point there are better ways to get the message out about animal cruelty than through lies and deception.

  30. What rights and wrong? The bulls know nothing about rights, they only know they are being killed…and for what?…but hey what can i say, i eat meat…still it aint right.

  31. National Dog Press (C) says:

    I lived in Madrid, Spain for 4 years (84-88) and attended one bullfight in Madrid. I was shocked to see that before a bull is actually put up against the bullfighter, that the Picadore on a horse stabs the bull with a huge spear, in order to cause it to lower it’s neck for the bullfighter to spear with a sword. The whole is that once the bull enters the ring the bull is going to DIE…. And the manner of death does not appear to me, to be honorable. It is very bloody, and horrific, in my opinion. It made me ill, to see this, and in general, there is a large amount of protesting by the public AGAINST bullfighting, but to little success. In every little town, there are mini bullrings, for normal people to try and be a hero and try and fight a bull with no experience. Every little town in Spain has there own city “running of the bulls” which I watched, allowing citizens to jump in front of bulls to look like a brave soul. The entire culture glorifies bullfighting in some manner. I dod not enjoy this part of Spanish culture. Bulfighting need to be stopped.

  32. First of all, thank you for taking the time to fight for truth. Of course the message of this photo is positive, but it is unacceptable to allow misinformation to flow freely as truth. The consequences of that are far greater than hurting a few feelings when highlighting misinformation.

    I posted this link on the page of someone who shared this on my FB wall, and was greeted with the response “But its also not a part of the U.S. culture…so it’s likely not a tree for you to climb.”

    This is from the same person who shared it. They are telling me that I shouldn’t have an opinion on the matter because I’m a US citizen and don’t know first hand what is going on? This same person is a US citizen, and someone I respect. I’m fearful for the future of our people if we can’t find a way to bolster our back bones and focus on truth instead of what sounds good.

  33. I would love to know one reasons why bullfighting is in anyway ethical??? I find it totally disgusting and psychotic

  34. Anyone who bullfights or enjoys watching it, delights in slaughter and the suffering of other living beings. I hope you all burn in hell, and if I ever get to meet someone who claims to like bullfighting, I will beat them to pulp right then and there. If I meet a matador….

  35. Actually, Munera had wanted to leave on several occasions. Here is his interview from March.


  36. Nuno Emanuel says:

    Respecting all convictions let me tell you all (hi)story of Alvaro Murena
    This is also a work of investigation

  37. As far i see only the nations where bullfighting exist like and want it. I am not sure where it came from and for what, seem to be like some ritual in Afrika where 2 or more membes of a tribe hit on eachother to proof there bravery. Well ok i think this is far better then killing an innocent animal. But i know, i eat meat and animals are killed to fill my stomag. The thing is that is to stay alive and i was born as a omnivore. However i wasn’t born as some one who like to kill an animal just for pleasure. So i cant like anything that has to do with bullfighting or cruelty against animals.

  38. You might want to check with your publisher or Amazon. Your link to the US site for the Kindle edition says the book is not available to residents of the United States..

  39. Nancy Turner says:

    An excellent example of why not to always believe what people say, thank you for getting the facts straight. I’d never actually heard of any of this before, it’s quite incredible!


  40. orzulak says:

    The most nauseating of psychopaths are well-read psychopaths. They carefully handpick their justifications. You can find justification and exaltation of pedophilia in books.
    You are trying to get attention and flaunt your academic prowess which fail to disguise your lack of compassion or love for a sport that revels in the slow and senseless death of a normally peaceful beast…whatever floats your boat and gets attention. Just admit that you enjoy and approve of that lifestyle and stop trying to romanticize it, or make it complex or nuanced. Get off the fence (may not be good for sales however).
    Philosophizing about it gets old and monotonous very quick, especially for people that have found peace within themselves about certain moral questions. My experience here has taught me nothing about myself and just a little about you. You sir, need a hug from your parents.

  41. Looks very like fun on the animal

  42. Reblogged this on chiefkeya.

  43. Mika Geno says:

    I am more excited when the Bull wins! I guess I always support the “under-dog” in any situation, or perhaps I just find it unacceptable to watch someone stab an animal to death for fun and would prefer to see the “victim” come out on top, perhaps do a bit of the stabbing too.

  44. Interesting

  45. Great post. I’ll definitely give your book a read. I’ve watched corridos in Mexico and was lucky enough to be in Pamplona last July for the San Fermines.

    Also, it appears that very few people know that the bull’s carcass is sold to a butcher after the corrido to be chopped up and sold for consumption.

  46. I used to think the bull was merely killed with a sword. Then I learned about the spears placed in
    the back before hand. Is this to weaken the bull – allowing the matador to approch it, or is this to make it angrier, and thus make the spectacle more dramatic? I wonder if this practice has it’s roots
    in animal sacrifice? or the human facination with death – Such as in Himimgway’s death in the after
    noon – I once heard of medieval sport called fox tossing – a fox was dressed in a elaporate costume
    and tossed into the air – usually dieing when it landed.

  47. fivereflections says:

    very nice
    David in Maine USA

  48. quite enlightening!

  49. This is a debate that has crossed my mind on a more or less shallow level before, but I never thought about both sides. It might be cultural, it might be traditional, it might be entertaining – but it is (somehow) wrong. I’d love to learn more, it seems I just found the perfect source – thanks

  50. Stop the killing of innocent animals

  51. Though I can’t stand “animal rights activists” (the very term implies a condescending, hypocritical attitude, since we humans are animals ourselves), I must admit I find Spanish bullfighting unfair. American rodeo bull riding is far more humane, in my opinion, because the bull has an equal chance, and is not slaughtered at the end.

  52. Congrats on being FP! You wrote a fascinating exploration of what I believe is a little-understood part of Spanish culture. Your thoughtful article presents the facts without ethno-centric cultural bias – no easy task. Having grown up in the US in a rural, farm-oriented community (state of Iowa), I spent many hours visiting my family members’ farms. As a teenager, I worked summer jobs in the fields, often near cattle and hogs. I have great respect for animal rights, and I believe we have responsibilities which accompany our position of privilege at the top of the food chain. But make no mistake, I’m no vegan. At this point in time, I’m undecided as to my conclusions about the ‘value’ of bull-fighting.
    I’m looking forward to reading your book. Cheers.

  53. Disappointing to know that the picture is not what it really seemed to be.

  54. Reblogged this on Sandy Kurniawan.

  55. Bull fighting, corrida, matadors need ban!!!
    I for rights animals and love.

  56. fifa 13 says:

    great post i love you

  57. Ethics, a bad excuse to call in the ‘rights’ balancing the ´wrongs´, to thus exclude true morality. It plain wrong!

  58. estherina says:

    Its not a fair fighting. The matadors just acting to be a winner, Actually they’re just big looser

  59. Bull: “you know Matador, we both are victims of an oppressive and exploitative culture that demands blood and cruelty simply to relieve the urges and cruelty of the audience, therefore, we both, you and I, are being used.”
    Matador: “I know, I know but if I don’t kill you they will laugh at me and I’ll never get laid again…”
    Bull: “Yes, choices, we all have choice amigo, well, all you humans that is…”

  60. It doesn’t matter. Bull fighting is an immoral activity that relies entirely on animal cruelty. It will end and that end is coming soon.

  61. Corrida is only cruelty. More and more Spanish regions forbid it now. We’re in a good way to totally forbid it.

  62. Thank you for keeping us straight on what’s going on with that. It was also interesting to find out what the matador was actually doing.

  63. I wonder how many responders who are horrified by the “suffering, and disgusted by and calling for an end to bullfighting eat meat. .

  64. Thanks for clearing up the misinformation. You’ve gotten me a bit intrigued about the corrida. I don’t think I’d ever watch it (because I’d empathize with the bull and get depressed afterward), but I would like to get the facts straight and understand its cultural significance.

  65. Jack Tolley says:

    Maybe not true, but much more interesting and moving as a lie. Do we need Facebook to be true? Art is so often and gloriusly ‘factually'(as if any real certainty inhabits our fractured understandings… ) untrue. Often the really profound truths emerge because of the ‘factual’ twists and ellisons.

  66. I’int even know what to say… and I like it… even though I like bullfight :(

  67. Despite everything you said, it still doesn’t explain that first photo – and the incident surrounding it. That photo speaks a thousand words.

    Also, tell me which parts of this passage touring facebook are not true:

    “This incredible photo marks the end of Matador Torero Alvaro Munera’s career. He collapsed in remorse mid-fight when he realized he was having to prompt this otherwise gentle beast to fight. He went on to become an avid opponent of bullfights. (The look on this bull’s face says it all. Even grievously wounded by picadors, bleeding from it’s Nose and Mouth, he still did not attack this man.)

    Torrero Munera is quoted as saying of this moment: “And suddenly, I looked at the bull. He had this innocence that all animals have in their eyes, and he looked at me with this pleading. It was like a cry for justice, deep down inside of me. I describe it as being like a prayer – because if one confesses, it is hoped, that one is forgiven. I felt like the worst shit on earth.” “Cows are amongst the gentlest of breathing creatures; none show more passionate tenderness to their young when deprived of them; and, in short, I am not ashamed to profess a deep love for these quiet creatures.””

    Are those quotes fabricated? Or are they words that simply belong to someone else? If so, who?

  68. We went to one bullfight when living in Spain, just to say we had experienced that aspect of the Spanish culture. One was all it took, had no desire to ever go back.

  69. OK, so basically, you are validating apathy in the name of journalism?

    The Matador in the photo is NOT UPSET?!? Ok… perhaps it takes the concocting of a fantasy-world to believe something like that, too, hmm?

    I understand where you are coming from. I studied with a wonderfully brave screenwriting teacher who lived a key point of his life in Mexico, where he immersed himself in its culture, and he shared with me the very psyche behind the “celebration of death” that goes on there… the cultural significance of bullfighting.

    It is in the same spirit as which William Blake wrote in his famous poem,

    “When the stars threw down their spears,
    And water’d heaven with their tears,
    Did He smile His work to see?
    Did He who made the lamb make thee?”

    Meaning, God made the lamb, but he also made the tiger. You can’t have light without darkness. Life without death.

    I understand that you are speaking in this vein, but we are dealing with a psychological paradox. You cannot claim to me by any rationale that a Warrior does not face the terror of what he has done when in the face of innocent eyes.

    Let me give you a clear example of this:

  70. You’ve made a compelling argument that shows you are accurate about one thing. That photo is not of Manera. What I am trying to get you to consider is that the fact that those quotes were fabricated, or that the photo is not of the person the quote claims to be from, does not change the message – or alter its importance. To not distinguish this difference would be to make a logical fallacy.

    Argument from fallacy – assumes that if an argument for some conclusion is fallacious, then the conclusion itself is false.

    Not only that, it would be to miss the forest for the trees.

  71. Great entry, now my knowledge has been fed. I don’t know anything about Munera and bullfighting, but then makes me want to get a copy of your book. I bet it’s a good read. :)

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  72. dakrizzz says:

    So interesting…

  73. It’s like the myths of people involved in the slave trade having a change of heart. I dont think it every happened, as so much money was tied up in it. The world it was part of had to change. I am a vegetarian. I accept killing animals for food, but there is something deeply sick in the practice of torturing animals for entertainment.

  74. I never read much about bull-fighting, before, apart from very superficial articles. So, I really enjoyed your blog for giving me a deeper look into it. I will look out for your book in the stores.

  75. nataliamunozrujas says:

    lo más penoso de todo es que cuando uno habla de España lo primero que se venga a la cabeza sea la “fiesta del toreo”. Es aberrante.

  76. It’s about time bull fighters came to their senses and stop killing innocent animals!!

  77. I’ve read a few comments and not yet seen anyone argue the case for bullfighting. I suppose there are several reasons why people who enjoy bullfighting might not a) read this blog, b) read this particular post, or c) wish to announce publicly and in this environment that they support bullfighting.

    For my part, I’ve been to one bullfight and one encierro, and quite enjoyed them both. While the so-called spectacle of death did raise a certain revulsion in me (as it should in any sane human), I recognise that bloodsports and animal-baiting of all forms have been a part of human history since time immemorial, from Minoan bull-vaulting, through the Roman amphitheatres, and on to dog and horse racing. It is just one of the many ways humankind and humans as individuals have expressed and exercised dominion over the natural world.

    However, that is not to say that the visceral experience and primal reaction that we experience at a bullfight indicate that, as sentient and self-aware beings, we should renounce such activity. Rather, we should accept that these are the inevitable consequences of a diet based (at least in part) on meat. Before you take offense at bullfighting, go and visit an abbatoir, or an average cattle/chicken/sheep/pig farm. Witness the conditions in which everyday livestock live and die. Maybe, if you feel up to it, prepare a meal from life to plate, with everything that involves. I have, on more than one occasion, and found it both humbled me and reconnected me with that increasingly removed edge of the sphere of human experience – the natural world.

    No animal that dies as prey lives a life as pampered, nor have such prized and successful genes as prize bulls. Most pets don’t, for that matter. While an animal may have no concept of glory, or honour, or nobility, the bull has a fighting chance, and it will, on a rare occasion, win.

    Which is more cruel? To keep alive through endless surgery and treatment a family’s pet dog, which through inbreeding has terrible congenital arthritis and a propensity to tumours, adding years of painful and diminishing experience? Or to raise a fighting bull to be as strong, healthy, alert and example of its species it can be, and end its life in its prime, usually after siring a new generation, and to honour the animal’s death by consuming its physical remains in full?

    Everyone who enjoys meat, as I do, should have a first hand understanding of the life and death of livestock (so called because to us humans and since the time of the first husbandry, they are captive, living food. No more, no less). It gives us an appreciation of the true value of the food that ends up on our plates, and for me at least, resulted in my eating less of it, but enjoying it on a more informed and considered level, as well as changing my approach to how and where I buy meat.

    I would now have absolutely no qualms about going to another bullfight. I just haven’t been invited to one in a while!

    Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, I am Spanish (the better half of me, at least).

  78. SO, Thanks to this blog and this particular dialogue, it is crystal-clear the photograph of the ‘redeemed matador’ is a hoax; this much is true. But, WHO wrote the caption (which appears the same in all formats), the riveting prose describing looking into the bull’s eyes and seeing “a cry for justice, almost like a prayer.” This does not appear to be the work of a hack, but a professional author. … But WHOM?

  79. One can easily judge bullfighting in two perspectives. First one, cruelty on animals and the second one is the culture of the nation. There are also religious ceremonies where you see animals are killed but this is another story for sure.

    The culture you are grown in describes the way of behavior, what you perceive as “cruelty” and a justifiable act. Before making judgements, first you have to isolate yourself from your culture and look at the matter with a purely naked eye. What is going on in the arena and why people kill animals?

    Feeding is the main cause for killing, isn’t it? You kill goats, sheep, cows, pigs, chicken, fish. You also harvest and kill plants, vegetables. These are all justifiable acts since without doing so, we can’t survive.

    Animals kill each other too. They have to do so to continue natural life.

    But what if you kill another being for show business? I would surely hesitate to hate this “sports” or “culture”, whatever you call it, if the bullfighters were fighting with bare hands, no swords, no stabbing etc but the case is totally different. Before a matador gets on the stage, the bull is stabbed and already bleeding. If you leave the bull by itself, it will surely die because of this. The stabbing makes the bull weak and angry. Then the “hero” comes out, dancing around the already dying bull. Sorry but this is not fair and making an animal suffer for hours does not serve any meaningful purpose. It is not hero thing either.

    I hate to see bulls dying bleeding and trying to save their lives against the opponent. I hate to see bulls run across the street, frightened, falling on each other, breaking their legs, without seeing anything. Are the guys running in front of the bulls epic heroes? Don’t think so. It has no difference with jumping into a crowded highway and trying not to be hit by a car. It is meaningless!

    100 years later, our grandsons will watch these cruelty videos in shame! We don’t have the right to destroy anything just for fun. The world is not only ours. We have to respect every other creature, because only we have the ability to think and to make it better.

  80. ..After a little research (& a lot of luck), I can now answer my own Question: the power-packed prose concerning looking straight into the bull’s eyes and seeing “a cry for justice, almost like a prayer” was decidedly penned by acclaimed Spanish poet/novelist Antonio Gala Velasco and first published in the pages of the Sunday Supplement to “El Pais,” a mega-newspaper based in Madrid, way back in 1995. As there is no record of the multi-talented Gala Velasco ever being a matador, we can only conclude his passage is fiction, albeit incredibly well-written fiction. And, for those who think iron-headedly that words never trump ideas, that style never triumphs over substance, then well, they must never have heard audiotapes of the famed “I Have A Dream” speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which literally changed the world but said succinctly nothing more than a sing-sing, colorful, cadence-like listing of people and places in Americana, and an ultimate, fervent statement for overall equality therein. Words can be used like mighty hammers, and this caption (above) is just one of those times.

  81. Regarding the body language of the matadors sitting on the bench around the ring: Isn’t it simply that the bulls are puzzled by this posture? In herd language this is a non-confrontational posture that also shows submission (especially the turning away). The bull approaches out of curiosity rather than aggression. Cattle are PREY animals. It is the bulls job to defend the heard. They are herbivores and have no reason to attack unless threatened. I do not think we need to anthropomize them. I do think they deserve compassion.

  82. Thanks for the blog. I wanted to believe this photo and the caption…but I try to check authenticity before reposting. I’m sad that this photo and caption are not true. I wanted to believe it. I don’t want to believe this is a staged act by a matador who positioned himself in front of a dying bull. I believe in truth and researching facts…and if one lies once anywhere…in a caption, in a blog, in a FB status…how am I to know what else is truth or lie from that person? If you have a truthful argument for a deserving cause, you don’t need to lie, even a little, to get the point across. Deceitful reporting destroys all credibility.

  83. Great writing. Yeah, call me a sceptic, but something didn’t feel right at all about that much re-posted photograph. So I googled it and found your page, which is better stuff than the tripe I was reading on facebook. :-)

  84. Roy Mackenzie says:

    When you’re used to the internet, at some point you feel when a story like this is made up or real.
    That’s why the clarification is very much welcome.

    I don’t want to enter the sterile debate, but people who are enraged by animals being killed but eating animals at the same time…quite contradictory.

    Thank you Alexander!

  85. This brought tears to my eyes. I could feel the pain and disgust as the animal slowly walk around the arena to its impending death. When will humanity learn? Are we so far gone we have lost our empathy and compassion for our fellow earth dwellers. There is nothing evolved or supreme about displaying and applauding the killing of helpless animals. To me its the equivalent to the slaughter of whales for ‘scientific research’….sometimes I’m so ashamed of mankind.

  86. Thanks to the author for clarifying this “bullshit”. Sad to see it is still spreaded a thousandfold on FB with hundredthousands of sentimental comments. If someone sets a critical comment, a “shitstorm” follows. People want to believe what they think is politically correct….My point in this topic: At another place it was said bullfigth is a culture with a long history. So i think it is a problem of the Spanish. They have to deal and live with it. I am not that arrogant to dictate them their culture, as i am not to dictate the Chinese not to eat dogs, the Jews to forbid circumcision or the Inuit to stop killing seals. And yes, i love Hemingway, and no, i do not like bullfights.

  87. It doesn’t matter that this picture is not true, because what is true, is that Bullfighting is a monstrous barbaric pastime, for people that have no compassion in their hearts, their love is based upon what they want from a relationship, whether that relationship be with a spouse, child or pet, in fact they don’t love at all, they have no idea what true love is.

  88. and what is the reason that you had to tell us that?????
    wouldn`t it have been better to leave it as it is, and people still believe in humanity……????????
    I dont understand you, sorry.

  89. Le desplante (en espagnol : insolence) : C’est une photo pour laquelle il y a mauvaise interprétation. Elle aurait pu être émouvante en effet mais il n’en est rien. S’asseoir sur la «bande» autour de l’arène après que l’épée ait été placée dans le taureau est un acte de défiance. Cette position est une feinte, un geste de défi, le torero prouve donc sa domination de la situation en adoptant une position qui semble très dangereuse.

    C’est une attitude de défi du matador face au taureau, normalement en fin de faena. Le côté spectaculaire de cette attitude appelle presque toujours les applaudissements. Toutefois, elle n’est justifiée qu’en toute fin de faena, quand le taureau est dominé à l’évidence. Certains matadors en abusent parfois en cours de faena, comme appel au public. Ce sont alors des desplantes « de mauvais goût », décriés par les puristes, et qui peuvent aller jusqu’à des gestes de familiarité : caresse de la tête, des cornes, tapotement sur le museau, s’assoir devant le taureau, etc. C’est un des défauts des matadors tremendistes.

  90. Jack Wittenbrink says:

    I suppose it’s important to clarify for journalistic accuracy whta’s haapening in the photo, but the real point is that all these guys, and this tradition, are moral disgraces. The countries where these things take place are brought shame by these practices.

  91. You’re only showing one side of the story here, implying that Munera’s “epiphany” came only at physical cost to himself and only because he followed others’ opinion like a sheep – which is just as dishonest as posting a false caption to the photograph. For readers who actually care about getting the truth – and not just your truth – read Munera’s 2008 interview, where he says very clearly he had moments of great ambivalence about bullfighting. BEFORE the goring and hospitalisation and there were “several critical moments” where he thought about quitting.

    In any event, down with bullfighting and anyone who participates from close or afar in this barbaric activity.

    [He is hardly going to say he had no doubts before is he? He made his living killing bulls – who cares if he had doubts? When has that EVER been an excuse for going against your conscience? He didn’t stop killing bulls until they stopped him. And I quote his EXACT words about he then justified that change. It is not me who is being dishonest. Ed.]

  92. Should he have stopped sooner? Of course. Should he have never engaged in bullfighting in the first place? No doubt. But by omitting the context, you imply that bullfighters cannot experience doubt or disgust at their own actions unless they suffer grievous bodily harm, and I would hope that at least an enlightened few do… Or at least this one did. He didn’t need to turn against bullfighting. On the contrary, having been paralysed by a bull, he could understandably cheer for every bull taunted, speared and killed for the pleasure of mindless morons.

    Again — I despise bullfighters and bullfighting and am always pleased when once in a rare while, the bull is able to harm his attacker. Strike one for the bull, even if he does die in the arena.

    [And I assume you are consistent in this view and wish for every person who wears leather to be skinned and every person who eats meat to be devoured? Ed.]

  93. Yesterday I put this photo and text on my Facebookpage, today I read that it isn’t actually the truth…….. does it matter? NO, the message given in a picture speaks more than a 1000 words and I want to believe that it is a possible truth, a truth that CAN happen, every day in the heart of every human being!

    [“I want to believe” and “this is true” are separated by REALITY. The only message of this picture – unless you are a fool or a liar – is “matador carries on as usual.” Ed.]

  94. Thanks for the Factual correction – Much appreciated,

  95. The fact that bullfights are held for entertainment value, takes this act of wickedness to animals, to the realms of evil ! ………..These acts should not be classified as bullfights, as the bull is not a willing participant, and is going to be horrendously slaughtered for entertainment value by the most evil of humans !

    [Which is exactly why they are not called bullfights in Spain, but "runnings of the bulls" - 'corridas de toros'. And all cattle are slaughtered for the entertainment of humans - we don't need to eat meat or wear leather. Ed.]

  96. Bullfighting…. yes we dont need to discuss that…its cruel maybe but its also their traditions. The most important question in us all is not why its cruel … Its more , to ask WHERE is the honor ? Where is the honor if i go into the arena to watch or fight a fight which is already lost for the bull.
    ITs dishonest for a man and for the bull. The bull is the most innocent and this we must realize…its simply dishonest to kill that bulls in such a way. I would like to see it what the matador does when they will give him a small knife where he cant reach the bull from the far. I hope the people realize that one day. u dont have to dishonor the bulls life in that way. Thats not correct and i believe also not wanted by God.

    [Again and again this type of comment is placed on this blog. The 'corrida de toros' is not, and does not pretend to be, a fight. That is an English word, not used in Spain. The bull is no more meant to have a chance to survive than he is in the abbatoir. The corrida is a method of killing cattle. However, a man may test his skill and courage - if it was easy, why are matadors paid so much by audiences many of whom have tried to become one? - while the bull lives three times as long in roaming woodland, and dies in 20 minutes in that ring. It is not fair. It is better. Ed.]

  97. O melhor da tourada, é quando o toureiro leva uma chifrada.

  98. Isso é como dizer: “o melhor dos bifes é quando há algum ser humano em si.”

  99. It doesn’t matter who is who in this case. If you kill or support killing of the animals, you’ll get it soon or later. You’ll suffer the same! Just remember that! And there is no debate about it, it just will happen. You’ll see…

  100. Wow, is the extent of your threat/remonstration that I will die? You might want to think that through, because so will you.

  101. Aida Apodaca says:

    Que bien que investigué un poco antes de compartirlo, no se necesitan engaños para defender a quienes no pueden defenderse y por muchas explicaciones sobre lo “artístico” de esta práctica de tortura no es justificable.

  102. The storey is simply believable whether its true or not as it is the normal human response of a healthy individual to feel deep remorse at the vanity and ignorant cruelty of such cruelty to an sentient emotional evolved animal.

    Clearly there is something deeply wrong with cultures that perpetuate such sadistic cruelty and suffering for such shallow human titillation and amusement

  103. Great. So lies are believable because you like them. Good luck with that. I hope you end up living in a dictatorship because you like to believe what they say…

  104. Fact is, it should not be done! Time to evolve people! Leave these macabre games in the dust of past time sports. We have come a LONG way since the Romans used to throw slaves to the lions. These bulls are not sport or made to fight to the death. The fact that humans are still depending on these type of “sports” only provides an impression of us. At the end of the day what is the difference between BULLFIGHTING and DOG FIGHTING and even cock fighting.

  105. There is no justification for animal cruelty!
    They should just go to a ring to fight in MMA another man…this is real courage.

  106. First, it is not a fight, it is a scripted performance with a ritual sacrifice in it. Second, 533 professional toreros have been killed in the past three centuries. It is far more dangerous than MMA. If that is how you define ‘courage’.

  107. Dex i totally agree with you , sometimes it’s not good to hear the truth and i was more happy by the false scenario

  108. With all the discusting abuse of animals on this planet and all of the wonderful activists that do their best and devote their lives to their cause, it couldn’t have hurt to let them have this one. The scales are tipped in such an unbalance, definitely not in favour for animal rights. We humans forget we are animals too, we are the only true vermin that exist on the planet. I grew up on a farm and have eaten meat all my life, but there is a moral code and a respect that every living creature on this planet desserves, bull fighting clearly is not a part of this code. You should have let them have this one, shame on you!

  109. NOELIA RIVAS says:

    The photo may not be true, but the fact that Alvaro Munera is an ex-bull figther and has stopped doing that it is!!! here is his story, on line you have to check, double check and if your are correcting, try to correct the story as it really happened!

  110. Ronald MacDonald probably kills more bulls every minute of every hour than Manolete did in his entire career. As long as the killing is done out of sight and we get our beef nicely packed with pretty pictures of smiling animals we are happy…..how pathetic is that………

  111. To the multiple people who posted questioning who wrote the text in the graphic: In the article, above, third paragraph.

  112. “El sol no es una estrella, es un sol, idiota” Jajaja. Thanks for this post. Is ridiculous now when we live in the pinnacle of the access to information how few people takes the small effort to double check facts. Regards


  1. [...] a kolumbiai nem is ilyen körülmények között hagyta el utolsó viadalának színhelyét. Egy blogger szerint pedig még csak az sem igaz, hogy a fotón egy összeomlást látnánk: a leülés szerinte [...]

  2. [...] acordo com o blog de língua inglesa A Ultima Arena, o escritor especializado em touradas Alexander Fiske-Harrison explica que a foto não tem nada a [...]

  3. [...] The photograph is actually of an exhausted matador, Francisco Javier Sánchez Vara, simply taking a break while waiting for the bull to collapse. The words come from an article by the author Antonio Gala Velasco in the Spanish newspaper El País in 1995. Alexander Fiske-Harrison, author of Into the Arena, The World of the Spanish Bullfight blogged about this misinformation in July and once again the photo is circulating widely on Facebook. For the true story, see “This Photo is Not What It Seems” on http://fiskeharrison.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/this-photo-is-not-what-it-seems/. [...]

  4. [...] when you read up on the background: like [...]

  5. [...] историю, сразу же находится правда, например тут (по-английски). В двух словах: на фото изображён не Мунеро и, в то же [...]

  6. [...] blogger FISKEHARRISON says that it is in fact Spanish matador, Francisco Javier Sánchez Vara, and he is most likely [...]

  7. [...] And the post published by Fisheharrison who provides a good amount of information more convincing claiming rather the opposite, here is the link: http://fiskeharrison.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/this-photo-is-not-what-it-seems/ [...]

  8. [...] вестник El Pais. Ако ви вълнуват още подробности – можете да прочетете тази публикация (на английски [...]

  9. [...] вестник El Pais. Ако ви вълнуват още подробности – можете да прочетете тази публикация (на английски [...]

  10. […] to a tradition considered by many Spaniards to be an essential part of their cultural patrimony. The Last Arena Personal blog on a trip to Pamplona. Snopes.com – Alvaro Munera Factchecking website, […]

  11. […] parole di Munera; è l’opera di uno scrittore spagnolo Antonio Gala, che non è un torero. Come riportato nel blog “L’ultima Arena”, questa fotografia non raffigura per niente Munera, ma è […]

  12. […] de consulta: fiskeharrison / museumofhoaxes / snopes / lajornadanet / cookingideas / eltiempo / diccionariocosodigital / […]

  13. […] of former Colombian bullfighter, Álvaro Múnera (also known as El Pilarico), the image is of a different man named Francisco Javier Sánchez […]

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