"These bulls only fight once," says De Oliveira. "After one fight, they learn what's going on and they get too dangerous." If the bull performs well in the ring—if it follows the cape and doesn't wreak too much havoc—it may be used for stud service. If not, it may be on the next truck to the slaughterhouse.
Camara, who is known as Pepe by the fans, steps into the ring next to greet his first bull, a nervous, drooling head-tosser that jumps at its own shadow. He successfully tosses a couple of banderillas but before he has a chance to finish decorating the Velcro, the bull traps him behind a wooden barricade. Sosa, who is known as El Gago ("the Stutterer"), rushes out to create a distraction. But after one valiant sweep of his cape, he loses his balance and falls over. Immediately El Gago is hooked by el toro. When the bull is momentarily distracted, Sosa jumps up unhurt and shouts at the animal, perfectly enunciating a few Spanish curses. Everywhere there is murmured agreement: This bull is a bust.
As compensation, Camara's second bull—the fifth overall—is a beauty. When it lowers its head and paws the ground, great chunks of earth go flying. True to its breeding, the bull charges the matador's pink-and-yellow cape on cue. But suddenly, he's charging Camara instead. The matador runs and dives over the barricade, aggravating his old gore injury. As he clutches his groin and grimaces, the crowd rumbles in alarm. Is this it for Pepe? And what about the bull? Will the animal ever tire of ramming its horns into the wall? Finally the bull wanders away in a daze, and the injured matador makes his way painfully over to another barricade to pick up his muleta. Pepe has no intention of giving up. "I'm happier in the ring in front of my public—hurt or not," he will say later through a translator. "And that was a good bull."
A bull this good is rare. It lunges at every flick and sweep of Camara's red, fan-shaped muleta. And though he winces with each step and pirouette, the injured matador never lets up. When he feels the bull has had enough, he drops the scarlet cloth, turns on his slippered heel and walks away.
There may be no morte in Portuguese bullfighting, but there is a final symbolic gesture. Returning to the barricade, Pepe Camara takes one last banderilla When he is ready and when the bull is ready, Camara faces the horns, and with a great flourish, thrusts the stick at the Velcro between the bull's shoulder blades. As the matador accepts applause from the crowd, the bull, which is still very much alive, stands panting. There is a winner—but no loser.