The intense young woman opposite, caparisoned in the severe uniform and the exotic implements of her unusual profession, may well be the greatest woman bullfighter who has ever lived. Not everyone thinks so, of course (in 1956 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED didn't). In Mexico and South America, where she has killed 300 bulls, Patricia McCormick of Big Spring, Texas has been criticized on several grounds: she is a woman; she is a Yankee; she is both; she fights on foot ( Peru's celebrated Conchita Cintr�n fought on horseback, dismounting only to kill); and, finally, she's too good.
All of these charges are true, including the last one. "Had she not been born a woman." one of Mexico's great matadors has said, "she might have been better than any of us." The distinguished critic, Rafael Solana, calls Miss McCormick "the most courageous woman I have ever seen," and adds, significantly, "she is better with the bulls than Conchita Cintr�n." Unlike other American girls who have had a fling at bullfighting. Miss McCormick has been unswervingly dedicated ever since the moment in 1951 when she abandoned her art and music courses at Texas Western College in El Paso to cross the Rio Grande. In the years since she first fought in Ciudad Ju�rez in 1952, Patricia has taken grave risks and suffered grave wounds for her passionate afici�n. She has been gored six times, once so savagely that a Mexican doctor abandoned hope. "Take her into her own country to die," he said. "There is nothing more to be done."
Although Miss McCormick's business cards identify her as a "Matadora de Novillos-Toros," she is not and can never be a matador. No woman ever has taken the alternative, the ceremony in which apprentices are advanced to the senior rank. The reason: a sponsor is required in the ritual, and no male matador will sponsor a woman, regardless of her capabilities. Carlos Arruza, the greatest Mexican matador of our generation, has said of Miss McCormick: "Yes, she fights larger bulls than any other woman, and I understand she kills well.... Her defect is that she is a woman."
Miss McCormick has not resisted this discrimination, but has compensated in other ways. She has become a formidable student of her profession. She has read most of the Spanish literature on the subject and has formulated theories on its various aspects. One of the latter suggests that Americans can be helped to understand the bullfight through geometric forms. To develop this view. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED sent Miss McCormick and Artist Robert Riger to Spain. The result of their collaboration is on the following pages.
THE ART OF THE CORRIDA IS RULED BY GEOMETRY
In the permanent, international argument over bullfighting (is it a sport or an art?) one element remains largely unrecognized: to the professional, bullfighting is most of all a logical science, an exercise in geometry, with laws as rigid as those customarily applying to mathematics.
The breathtaking, balletlike movements are the show of the corrida, but they are not the substance. Beneath the swirling cape and behind the red muleta is a collection of precisely timed and calculated maneuvers designed to enable the matador to dominate and destroy the bull while protecting himself from injury or death. These maneuvers comprise the celebrated passes—the ver�nica, the gaonera, the derechazo and the natural, to name only a few—but even the aficionado often sees only the flourish and does not fully understand the tactical moves that make it possible.
Of course, the success of a bullfight—and, consequently, the effectiveness of the geometric laws that govern it-depends entirely on the combative instinct of the fighting bull (opposite), a wild animal bred to charge anything in sight that moves.
A ferocious bull must have his attention fixed (and kept) on the muleta or cape. The maneuver shown below not only accomplishes this but makes it possible for the matador to test the bull's intentions and to gain ground himself between charges. That is the only time the matador may move. During the charge itself, both art and geometry demand that he remain virtually immobile from the hips down, as N�mero Uno Antonio Ord��ez demonstrates on the following pages.
The invisible rectangles of the ver�nica