“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.”
Alvaro Munera is a real person, he was a bullfighter and eventually became a fierce animal-rights defender, after a bull confined him to a wheelchair for life. Munera was forced to give up bullfighting at the age of 18, so the picture is probably of another torero.
I will present you excerpts of a 2009 interview of Alvaro Munera, about his experience as a bullfighter and his life as an activist for the animal rights:
Did you ever think of quitting bullfighting before that bull confined you to a wheelchair?
"Yes, there were several critical moments. Once I killed a pregnant heifer and saw how the fetus was extracted from her womb. The scene was so terrible that I puked and started to cry. I wanted to quit right there but my manager gave me a pat on my back and said I shouldn’t worry, that I was going to be an important bullfighting figure and scenes like that were a normal thing to see in this profession. I’m sorry to say that I missed that first opportunity to stop. I was 14 and didn’t have enough common sense. Some time later, in an indoor fight, I had to stick my sword in five or six times to kill a bull. The poor animal, his entrails pouring out, still refused to die. He struggled with all his strength until the last breath. This caused a very strong impression on me, and yet again I decided it wasn’t the life for me. But my travel to Spain was already arranged, so I crossed the Atlantic. Then came the third chance, the definitive one. It was like God thought, 'If this guy doesn’t want to listen to reason, he’ll have to learn the hard way.' And of course I learned."
What was the decisive factor that made you an animal-rights defender?
"When I went to the US, where I had to face an antitaurine society that cannot conceive how another society can allow the torture and murder of animals. It was my fellow students, the doctors, nurses, the other physically disabled people, my friends, my North American girlfriend, and the aunt of one of my friends, who said I deserved what happened to me. Their arguments were so solid that I had to accept that it was me who was wrong and that the 99 percent of the human race who are firmly against this sad and cruel form of entertainment were totally right. Many times the whole of the society is not to blame for the decisions of their governments. Proof of this is that most people in Spain and Colombia are genuinely anti-bullfighting. Unfortunately there’s a minority of torturers in each government supporting these savage practices."
Is there a lot of regret that you let it get to the point where you became paralyzed?
"I think it was a beautiful experience because it made me a better human being. After convalescence and rehabilitation, I started working toward the goal of amending my crimes."
Chiquilín, another repentant bullfighter, claims to have seen bulls weeping. He says that he cannot kill even a fly nowadays.
"I take my hat off to that man. He’s a real hero who learned his lesson through reason and thinking."
If the people of both countries are against bullfighting, why do bullfights still exist?
"Well, I believe that bullfighting eventually will disappear if it doesn’t remove its elements of torture and death. There’s a generational shift in values, and most well-educated young people are against cruel traditions."
In your articles you’ve associated tauromachy with a lack of culture and sophistication on the part of its aficionados. Isn’t this a bit simplistic? How do you explain that intelligent people like Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, John Huston, and Pablo Picasso were into bullfighting?
"Look, to be a talented person doesn’t make you more human, more sensible, or more sensitive. There are lots of examples of murderers with a high IQ. But only those who have a sense of solidarity with other living beings are on their way to becoming better people. Those who consider the torture and death of an innocent animal a source of fun or inspiration are mean-spirited, despicable people. Never mind if they paint beautiful pictures, write wonderful books, or film great movies. A quill can be used to write with ink or blood, and many terrorists and drug dealers of the 21st century have university diplomas hanging on the wall. The virtues of the spirit, that’s what really counts in God’s eyes."