The man, the bullfighter and the character converge in a special, controversial and extremely unique human being. She awakens veneration when she dresses in lights, surprises with her bohemian image in social life and can be disturbing when she reveals her obsession with the past and tradition.
He is a man of the 21st century locked in a lamp from the early 20th century. He longs for tradition, rejects modernity, admires Joselito el Gallo and his time, and on the original desk of the ‘king of bullfighters’, which he keeps in his home in La Puebla, lie books on bulls and philosophy. He has three children, he assures that he feels good (“that thing about happiness seems very comfortable and I don’t like it”), and excited, that he suffers a lot, too, and that he reads Nietzsche, the German philosopher, “deep and hard of understand”.
That is José Antonio Morante Camacho, Morante de la Puebla, born 41 years ago on the edge of Seville, recognized figure of bullfighting, artist of peaks and cliffs, and man of a great inner life, sometimes tormented by dark clouds in his personality. A being that leaves no one indifferent; neither when he fights nor when he speaks.
The appointment is in a quiet hotel near Madrid’s Retiro Park. It is Thursday, and Morante has just arrived from Seville for his second appointment, yesterday Saturday, in the Plaza de Vistalegre. He has had his hair and sideburns trimmed, and for the first time in a long time he has abandoned his old-fashioned profile. Ask if the photographer is there, and ask permission to change his outfit. After a while he appears clad in a spotless white linen suit over a flowered shirt and with slicked-down hair. He poses naturally (“this outfit responds to my way of being, and is a way of being in the world; I like to appear well in photos, and I take care of myself for it”), order a black coffee, and calmly reflect , hesitates and whispers about his life and his thoughts.
“The bullfighting festival is currently undergoing a galloping global threat,” he says bluntly, which has led him to become a ‘bullfighting activist’ in defense of a sector that, in his opinion, they are trying to ruin little by little. little.
“I am a traditional man, and that idea that the party has to reinvent itself seems to me a horror”
It was the voice that cried out in the desert in favor of the celebration of the April Fair, and says he is disappointed with the Junta de Andalucía and with his colleagues. “I found myself alone,” he concludes.
He does not believe, however, that the bullfighting festival is going through the worst crisis in its history (“it has suffered many throughout its existence and has always been much discussed”), nor that the central government is leading a crusade against it. . “It is the pandemic that has paralyzed all the celebrations, and the bullfight is one of them,” he says.
His speech slips into unusual twists and turns when it comes to possible solutions.
“I am a traditional man, and I believe that in a situation of health alarm you have to wait and endure. That idea that the party has to reinvent itself seems to me a horror “
Question. But don’t you think that bullfighting has become obsolete and you need to make a leap towards modernity?
Answer. “I disagree. I think quite the opposite. In bullfighting you have to look back and not forward. Being modern does not match this profession ”.
P. But the image of the bullfighter is socially devalued …
R. Sure, but that’s the way it is because the newspapers and television limit us more and more. I hope that the situation will change one day; It is the law of the pendulum.
P. Times have already changed, and today’s bullfighting is different from 50 years ago …
R. Today, a chef is a superstar, something unthinkable some time ago, because that is what the media and the industry have decided. We will have to endure, and if the party collapses, then we will all sink.
P. If bullfighting clings to the past and turns its back on modernity, it has a serious problem.
R. Yes, but it is so. Bullfighting is a liturgy, like the Catholic Church. The Pope cannot be expected to celebrate Mass in Bermuda shorts, no matter how many times change.
“My only obsession is to achieve an artistic goal”
P. You have just said that “if we sink, we will all sink.”
R. I, yes, with my banner of tradition. I will sink because bullfighting without tradition, without antiquity and without culture is nothing.
P. Is that the reason why you have become the VOX bullfighting benchmark?
R. The political authorities have maintained an attitude of silence and pasotism on the problems of bullfighting, which little by little has been losing importance. The prohibition in Catalonia is an example. The Constitutional Court cannot take seven years to decide whether or not bullfighting can be banned. VOX was born from the cowardice of the PP and to defend the traditions; and I join them like one who clings to a burning nail.
P. Do you agree with the ideology VOX politician?
R. Politically I am not a scholar to decide what is right or wrong; but I do agree with the containment policy that it defends. It is necessary to stop the global ideals that seek to end the identity of the peoples.
Despite the serious problems of the party, and the devaluation of the figure of bullfighters, Morante de la Puebla is a character recognized as a great artist inside and outside the ring.
“I feel like I have a lot of followers, it’s true, and that sometimes what I do becomes religion, and that’s very nice, but I don’t like the word artist. It is a very used word and anyone is considered as such. I am a bullfighter ”.
P. Do you feel that you are a man with a star?
R. You could say yes, but I also suffer a lot. I have almost never reached artistic fullness, and there have always been some details that have left me unsatisfied, except for the afternoon when I left the Puerta del Príncipe in Seville.
He says that he is very demanding with himself, “a necessary condition for improvement.” “There are evenings when the public comes out happy, but you know inside that you have been missing something. Fear is also an important factor, a daily improvement to give everything artistically ”.
P. Are you very scared?
R. I guess so, but I’ve never been in someone else’s shoes. Risking without knowing the consequences is an uncomfortable and unpleasant feeling of uncertainty. The bull is an irrational animal; For this reason, luck is so important in bullfighting.
Morante de la Puebla affirms that he maintains the illusion despite the fact that on June 29 he will turn 24 years as a bullfighter
“For me, the most important thing in bullfighting is your predisposition to a bullfight, and mine is the illusion of reaching an artistic goal. That is my obsession. It is true that the motivations have not always been the same, but the goal has been. Sometimes, I have lost it for fear of dying, for ceasing to feel or for as many other reasons as any person is assaulted throughout their lives ”.
P. Have you thought about withdrawal?
R. Many times I have thought that I have little left, but I am still young and I believe that I am in full power. This is not a sport, but you have to be prepared in case you have to flee or jump the barrier, for which I have always been very clumsy. In Madrid, for example, it is impossible because the boards are so high that you would need a pole.
P. Now that you are talking about Madrid. Is Sales still your unfinished business?
R. Yes. I have been about to go out on my shoulders three times, but I did not hit with the sword, and there are always voices that remind me that I did not go out the front door. I would like to return to that square, the one that has always scared me the most, to shut up some mouths. After that, whatever has to happen will happen, but that is another motivation, one of my dreams.
There is little left for the bullfight this Thursday afternoon, and Morante wants to get closer to Vistalegre. When he gets up, his figure appears thinner than usual, and with that white suit, the flowered shirt, the polished hair and the cropped sideburns, he looks more like a singer from the 90s than a bullfighter from the beginning of the last century. Contradictions of a singular character …