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ORDONEZ vs. DOMINGUIN
John Blashill
August 17, 1959
Ernest Hemingway and John Blashill describe the 'mano a mano' in which Domingu�n was gored, and Mary Hemingway offers an intimate account of the convalescence of a matador
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August 17, 1959

Ordonez Vs. Dominguin

Ernest Hemingway and John Blashill describe the 'mano a mano' in which Domingu�n was gored, and Mary Hemingway offers an intimate account of the convalescence of a matador

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A squat middle-aged man in a rumpled white suit rose from his barrera seat, jabbed his right fist high in the air and shook it hard. In a voice harsh with accusation he bellowed at two figures standing not ten feet away from me in the callej�n: "�Ya ha llegado la hora de la verdad! [The moment of truth has finally arrived.]"

It was a challenge, not a statement, and the man in white was speaking for every one of the 12,000 aficionados who had gathered in the Valencia bull ring on this Thursday, the 30th of July, 1959. For this was bullfighting's most important moment in more than a decade—since August 28, 1947, when a hawk-nosed, mournful matador named Manolete was fatally gored in a hick town named Linares. Today was the day the world's two greatest matadors—and greatest rivals—first were to meet on the sands, alone.

The older of the two had known the strain of hard dueling before. He was Luis Miguel Gonzales Lucas Domingu�n, 33, who 11 years ago had challenged the great Manolete, had fought and won at Linares the day that Manolete fought and died. The younger was Luis Miguel's brother-in-law, Antonio Ord��ez, 27, perhaps the purest artist yet produced by the classic soberness of the Ronda school.

Last year both matadors had the finest season of their careers, and Spain was split between ordo�istas and domingu�stas. But it seemed improbable that they ever would meet because of an old family feud that persisted even after Ord��ez married Luis Miguel's sister.

In April, however, the feud was resolved, and in June a series of cartels matched the two masters. At Zaragoza, Luis Miguel cut three ears, Ord��ez one. In Barcelona the result was the same, and again at Puerto de Santa Mar�a. The luck changed at Tudela—Ord��ez cut four ears, Domingu�n none. This brought them to Valencia and Tuesday, July 28. If they fought well on that date, a mano a mano—an admitted and open duel on the sands with each matador taking three bulls—would be scheduled for Thursday, July 30. Ord��ez cut two ears, Domingu�n none, but the crowd was wildly enthusiastic and the mano a mano was scheduled.

On Thursday afternoon I stood behind the burladero of the Valencia ring, watching the open door of the toril with Miguel and Antonio. The first bull was slow coming out, and Luis Miguel, seeing nothing to be gained by waiting behind the burladero, strode out into the ring, shouting to his assistants: "�Vale! vale! vale! [O.K., that's enough]." Miguel brought the bull through the cape for two ver�nicas ("�Ol�!") topped off by a media-ver�nica. When it was time for the faena, Luis Miguel started with derechazos, switched to his left hand for naturales, then went back to the right-handed passes and even did a couple on one knee. With a gusty wind getting stronger, Domingu�n decided to call it quits, and killed well after one pinchazo.

Ord��ez's first bull also walked out of the toril slowly, and the crowd whistled its disapproval. But suddenly the bull charged, chasing everyone in the ring to shelter. Antonio tried a couple of ver�nicas, but the bull wasn't with him. Ord��ez came up to the fence, shaking his head, saying "muy mal, muy mat," but when the banderillas were in, he walked out as if this toro were the best ever. He opened with five estatuarios ("�Ol�!"), then eight spectacular redondos, and the crowd went wild with delight. Ernest Hemingway, standing next to me behind the burladero, couldn't help beaming. "This bull's got all the defects in the world," said Papa, "and this boy just owns him now." After more right-handed passes in the high wind, Ord��ez killed with one stroke and cut an ear.

The third bull charged out fast and to its left, to the sombra side of the ring. Miguel met it with ver�nicas ("�Ol�!"), then took it out to the center of the ring for three more magnificent ver�nicas, to the strongest ol�s of the day.

After the picadors and banderilleros had their innings Domingu�n took the muleta and—close to the barrera-did six derechazos, the last four in rhythmic sequence ("�Ol�!" and applause). Then he switched to the left hand, for seven good naturales and a pase de pecho. Three manoletinas ("�Ol�!"), and Miguel was ready to kill. But the sword hit bone three times before he finally got it in. I said to Miguel as he walked up to the barrera, "Too many bones today." He answered gracefully, "I'm surprised I have any left in my sword hand."

The fourth bull was dangerous, and the wind was high, and Ord��ez did only perfunctory passes before killing it with one thrust. It was now 7:40 p.m., and the sky was so black that lights had to be turned on over the ring. The bugle blew, and out came the fifth bull of the day—a big black, branded No. 122. It walked out slowly, then charged hard. Domingu�n, standing at the barrera, met No. 122 with ver�nicas and then brought it up to the picador. With a flick of its great neck, the bull dumped both horse and rider.

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