He should have stopped all of this seven years ago in Navalagamella. He should have ended it that dusk as he was changing back into his street clothes in the town hall after another day of bullfighting, when he heard them shouting from the plaza outside, "Look! Look! A girl is bullfighting!" and he raced out onto the balcony in his underwear to discover his 14-year-old daughter rippling a cape in front of the beast.
A circle had cleared around Cristina. The teenage boys who had been waving their jackets, proving their manhood just a moment earlier in the plaza, had backed away. The cape flashed, the horns went by Cristina's stomach, and the crowd standing behind the makeshift barricades cried, "Ol�!"
Antonio S�nchez remembers his first instinct. "I wanted to dive off of the balcony," he says. He remembers his second instinct, too. He paused for a second or two to watch her. Then he jumped into his pants, ran downstairs, yanked her off the plaza and put her in the car, shouting at her half the ride home.
Cristina let him shout. Her father was incapable of hiding it; she had glimpsed it in his eyes: Dios m�o, he had thought as he watched her from the balcony in his underwear. She is not bad.
He should have stopped all of this two years ago in Getafe. He should have put an end to it that afternoon when the bull flung her into the air every time she tried to drive her sword between its shoulder blades—10 times, a dozen—sending her mother and youngest sister running from the plaza de toros in tears.
"Do you see how impossible this is?" Antonio had hollered at Cristina as she lay in the medical van afterward. "Look at you, bruised like a Christ! Do you finally understand?"
She looked up, covered with sweat and dirt, fighting to keep her voice from breaking, and said, "I knew it would be difficult, Pap�. This is just another exam I have to pass."
A beautiful answer, but he should not have accepted it. He should have taken the $1,000 sword from her that day, taken the $2,000 costume and stopped this mad experiment that was filling plazas de toros in towns all around Madrid with curiosity seekers and noveltymongers, with narrow-eyed men and wide-eyed women. Because he knew he would hate himself for the rest of his life if she ever got seriously hurt. And here she was in the sand in the middle of a plaza in Cali, Colombia, crumpled like a dress that had slipped off its hanger, having been tossed by the bull and having landed on her neck in precisely the same way Julio Robles landed two years ago, when he was paralyzed for life, exactly the same way El Nime�o II landed a year before that, incurring injuries that eventually left him in a bathroom with a rope around his neck. And here was Cristina's bull coming for her again as she lay on the ground, and her father's legs were so frozen with fear that he couldn't make them go to her with his cape to draw the animal away.
He should have stopped all of this five years ago in Parla....
There is no place in bullfighting for a woman. In truth, there is not even room in it for a bullfighter's wife. "Women do not support a man in this business," says F�lix (Pirri) Saugar, a former torero from Madrid. "A matador's woman is just there, in a different world from the matador, waiting for him to come back."