The Romero Dynasty

Francisco Romero Francisco Romero was the founder of the 18th century glorious bullfighting dynasty. There is very little known about his life. He was born in Ronda around 1700 and is considered to be the inventor of the muleta (the red cape used to lead the bull). According to legend, he was a shipwright by trade. In his Historical letter on the origins and evolution of bullfighting in Spain, Nicolás Fernández de Moratín stated that in 1726 «Francisco Romero of Ronda started out as a reserve bullfighter and was one of the first to perfect the art of using the muletilla (red canvas), stoically waiting for the bull face on, killing it with his bare hands».  He added that the bullfighter «wore suede breeches and jerkin, tight leather sash and attached black velvet sleeves to protect him from the bull's horns».

Juan Romero The son of Francisco Romero of Ronda, he started out fighting with Joaquín Rodríguez and later with his famous son Costillares. Juan Romero managed to fight with the greatest matadores of his time and he became famous for being a safe bullfighter and was one of the highest earning bullfigher of his time. He was one of the first to condemn improvised bullfights, putting together his own team of bullfighters (cuadrilla) and forcing people to hire them.

"He was one of the first to condemn improvised bullfights"

He married Mariana Martínez and went on to have seven children: six of them boys, four of whom became bullfighters- Gaspar, Antonio, José and Pedro. His daughter María Isabel married another prominent bullfighter of that time, José Cándido from Chiclana. His eldest son Gaspar died in the Salamanca bullring on 16 September 1773 while serving as a banderillero (bullfighting assistant) for his father.  His youngest son, Antonio, died after being gored by the bull Ollero in Granada on 5 May 1802.

José Romero His father was opposed to him becoming a bullfighter, wishing him to be a carpenter instead. He competed with his brother Pedro and fought in the ring with his rivals, mainly Pepe Hillo for a time, with whom he is said to have later overcome his differences.  José was very skilled and considered to be a discreet, intelligent bullfighter who performed with decorum and who enjoyed considerable success. He was fighting with Pepe Hillo on 11 May 1801 when his companion was gored to death by a bull. The 1802 and 1803 seasons are regarded as being his best years. He was forced to retire following the prohibition of bullfighting in 1804. Some years later however, in 1818, several bullfights were held in Madrid in aid of the Saint Andrew Brotherhood. José was invited to participate but suffered the mishap of being stabbed by a banderilla (spiked spear to stick into the bull) which marked the sudden end of his bullfighting career. He died at the age of 73.

Pedro Romero

Born in Ronda on 19 November 1754, he is regarded as the most important figure in the history of bullfighting. Like José Romero, his father also wanted him to train as a carpenter but finally relented and taught him his own trade. According to Cossío, he first stepped foot in a bullring at a bullfight organised by the gentleman of Ronda in Los Barrios, Cádiz. He took part in two bullfights for apprentice bullfighters in Algeciras when he was still a boy without his parent's knowledge.

He started out his professional career working alongside his father. He first killed a bull in the ring in Ronda at the age of 17, serving as second swordsman of his team of bullfighters at a charity event organized by Francisco Romero in 1771 and made his debut in the Seville bullring in 1772 . In 1775, he served as a reserve bullfighter in a bullfight held in Madrid where his father was fighting with Costillares, during which he killed two bulls. He was instantly thrust into the limelight, despite having not even featured on the poster advertising the fight. He really came into his own in 1776, killing 285 bulls and the word on the street in Madrid was that there was no animal too great for him. The following year marked the beginning of his rivalry with Pepe Hillo from Seville, one of the most passionate in the history of bullfighting, and one which provoked violent confrontations between the supporters of both bullfighters.

"He was immortalised in a portrait by the painter Francisco de Goya"

At the end of the 1794 season, he considered retiring to make an alternative living. Despite his high earnings, he had not managed to save enough to support himself for reasons unknown. He finally retired in 1799. As he said himself, «bearing in mind the 200 bulls or so that I killed each of the 28 years of my career, I would estimate that I have killed approximately 5,600 bulls, if not even more». Remarkably, he never suffered a single injury, not even the slightest scratch over his extensive career.  His final bullfight took place on 20 October 1799 in Madrid in which he fought with Pepe Hillo and his own brother Antonio Romero.

By all accounts, Pedro Romero had a very strong and determined character with great physical strength. In 1830, the Seville School of Bullfighting was founded and he was appointed director by the Crown, earning an annual salary of 12,000 reales. He returned home to Ronda following a brief stay in Madrid, where he died on 10 February 1839. Pedro Romero was the first bullfighter to achieve respect both inside and outside the ring, elevating the figure of the bullfighter in Spanish society.  He was immortalised in a portrait by the painter Francisco de Goya as well as in his bullfighting (Tauromaquia) engravings.

The Ordóñez Dynasty

Cayetano Ordóñez, Niño de la Palma He was the founder of the second bullfighting dynasty of Ronda, where he was born in January 1904. His parents owned a shoe shop called «La Palma», from where he got his nickname. His family moved to La Línea de la Concepción, where Cayetano first began to practice as a novice bullfighter in the ranches around the region. At the age of 17 he jumped into the bullring to join in the bullfight with young bulls held in Ceuta and returned to perform in the same ring in 1922 with a suit paid for by a spectator. He made his debut in Ronda the following year, and he became the first bullfighter to be carried by the crowd through the Main Gate of the Maestranza, and in 1924 he caused a stir in Seville when he was once again carried out on the shoulders of the public.  From then on, he was greatly in demand to appear in all the professional and amateur rings in Spain.  It was in Seville that he became a fully qualified bullfighter at the hands of the great Juan Belmonte. According to a review published in El Heraldo of the bullfight held in Madrid on 1 6 July 1925, «Since yesterday, thanks to Cayetano, we are left in doubt at all about what bullfighting should be Cayetano takes it and valiantly sweeps the merchants from the temple. The contortionists of bullfighting have now fallen from their pedestals. The revolution has triumphed... The false idols lie in the dust.  Bullfighting is revived . . ¡Resurrexit! ¡Resurrexit!» He fought for the last time at Aranda de Duero in 1942. He later became director of the Lisbon School of Bullfighting and died in Madrid on 30 October 1961.

Antonio Ordóñez His birth in Ronda on 16 February 1932 at his father's country house heralded the third golden age of bullfighting in Ronda. An exceptional, powerful bullfighter with a deeply classical style, he was without a doubt the best of his generation. According to critics, his «smooth, slow, gentle, harmonious, elegant» understanding of the art of bullfighting resulted in an incredibly slow blend of mastery and inspiration.

He attracted the admiration of figures such as Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway, who were among his friends. His best seasons were 1959 and 1960. His intense hand-to-hand combat with another great bullfighter, Luis Miguel Dominguín, made newspaper headlines and inspired Hemingway's collection of short stories «The Dangerous Summer». Having been gored some thirty times, he was forced to retire from bullfighting in 1981 due to serious injuries he suffered in the ring.

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