The matador with his pirate eye-patch does not need much introduction. All those who know him well sing his praises. It was a bull called “Marqués,” from the Miura bull-ranch that is to blame for the eye-patch over his left eye. The horn of that bull penetrated his left ear and his left eye. But the bullfighter does not hold anything against the bull. Indeed, he appreciates the glory he has attained from that unfortunate mishap.
Juan José Padilla (Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz, 1973), the “bread-man” from Jerez, is easy to like… and to like a lot. The Pamplona Bullring lights up with his presence. These Sanfermin 2014 he will fight on two days. He already made his first appearance last Wednesday and today, Saturday he repeats. His presence in the arena generates a lot of interest. He tends to give his all every time he fights because that is his style, a generous type, he is un ‘entregao’. This was confirmed to us the order day by Miguel Araiz, ‘Rastrojo’, the gaffer of the bull-minders in the Runnings of the Bulls. These men seem to have a certain special rapport with Padilla which was well caught in a photo from our photographer Mikel Ciaurriz last year when he snapped the matador arm-in-arm with his friends, the bull-minders.
This year we wished to bring them together again and Padilla gifted us with these cute snapshots taken in the courtyard of the bullring. If it were not for their uniforms, this could be just about any typical gang of mates ready to go out together to have a good time in Sanfermines. On this occasion, the photos were taken by another of our other photographers, Javier Martínez de la Puente, but Padilla remembered Mikel Ciaurriz from last year and, on seeing him, he shook his hand and told him “We must repeat the photo this year, right? The appointment was for 7.15 a.m. and the “pirate” made a big effort to come on time. A gesture that we most certainly sincerely appreciate.
Padilla generates a lot of affection. Wherever he goes, he leaves his mark. His path is that of a true hero who has known how to confront Death itself and to make the most of his life doing what he likes to do best. His personal background is just as impressive as his work in the bullring. He deserves many more awards of ears and tails if only for having learned how to fight against adversity and suffering.
“La vida es un regalo” (‘Life is a gift’) reads the title of the book written by María de Villota, the Formula1 driver who lost an eye in an accident and who sadly died last October. In the book, the driver expresses her appreciation to Padilla for his support and in different places in the book there are quotes and reflections made by the matador about what one can learn when one has looked Death in the eye. A copy of this book always travels with the bullfighter, like a lucky charm that will protect him, along with a couple of bracelets made by his two children for him.
He told the Formula One driver, among many other things, how to make a good eye-patch and how to place it without causing any pain…and how to show it off! In fact, he tends to match his eye-patch with the clothes he is wearing, as he is quite vain in that aspect. In several recent interviews that he has had, he admits that he likes to cook very much, to go to the beach, to have guests at home, to cycle on a tandem bicycle with his daughter and to take his six dogs for walks.
He appreciates almost everything in life. He says that the first thing he does each morning on waking up is to thank God for being alive. He often quotes doctor Carlos Val Carreres, who brought him back to life the day of his almost-fatal goring and indeed, other doctors too and of course his own wife – called Lidia, who he first courted when she just a girl of fourteen, when he used to deliver bread to her house. Her help has been crucial in his conclusive convalescence.
The goring to his eye resulted in the loss of 18 kilos in weight as well as the total loss of vision in his left eye while it also damaged his sense of symmetry, his sense of depth, his speed, his reflexes…but thanks to an iron will, which demanded long hours of recuperation with physiotherapists and speech therapists, he was able to reach a level of well-being which allowed him to get back into the bullrings again. It was not an easy decision to make, but he realized he had done the right thing when his daughter asked him after he told them his wish to continue as a matador, Paloma asked him: “Does that mean that I can tell my friends at school that you will be a bullfighter again?”.
In short, Padilla is made from special mettle, a phenomenon of Nature. He has suffered a total of 37 gorings so far and he never stops repeating that glory and suffering go hand-in-hand. Perhaps to sweeten the path, he has become a vicious chocolate eater. Luckily, with his profession, he burns up calories and he can continue to squeeze his lean body into the tight matador outfits. And for when he is taking his strolls, we have presented him with one of our T-shirt drawings from this year’s Sanfermin collection. It simply reads: “Pero sigo siendo el rey”. Nobody better than him to show it off. The best of luck, maestro!