Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Ordonez Brothers--Son's of the Great Paquirri

Cayetano has been severely injured several times this season, so he's not in very good shape. He's got a bum knee, his wrist hurts, and he's still recovering from a goring in his backside he received a few weeks ago. And he was about to fight another bull.

Just before he left the room, he got dressed for a day's work, helped into his glimmering suit of lights - an outfit just like the one his father and grandfather wore

"Terrible question, but when you leave the hotel room, does it occur to you that you might not come back?" Simon asks.

"Always," Cayetano admits. "That's the last moment we have by ourselves before going to the ring."

And then Cayetano began his long solitary walk. His first contact would not be with bulls, but with throngs of admirers who lied in wait. He tried to stay focused through all this. It's not easy.

Inside the ring, there's music and a procession - the Spanish passion for pageantry. Then came the signal that the ritual is about to begin: Cayetano’s suit of lights sparkled in the fading sun. Now, it was just between him and the bull - the moment every matador waits for.

"It has to do with the fact that you're closer to death that makes you feel more alive," Cayetano says.

Closer to death? In the ring, Cayetano is dancing with death. He brings the bull closer and closer as he executes a sequence of passes. He arches his back, as the horns pass inches from his chest. It is a ballet with a bull.

"You're risking your life and, of course, he's risking his," Cayetano says.

"But his life is over. That's a foregone conclusion," Simon points out.

"But in my situation, I can die, too. So we create this real personal connection and feeling between us," Cayetano explains.

Asked what he means by a personal connection, the matador says, "Well, you kind of have like a connection, a conversation with gestures, with time, with movement that you kind of lose reality. And you don't care anymore about your physical existence."

After the fight, the crowd waved white handkerchiefs. That is Spanish applause. It signalled that Cayetano deserved a prize, which he got. But the jubilation was short lived: another bull got a hold of one of Cayetano's assistants, got a horn into his leg and tossed him in the air.

He was rushed to the infirmary; every bullring has one. This is what every matador dreads, watching one of his men get gored. His femoral artery was been severed. He would live but he may not walk again.

Cayetano and the rest of his troupe had to move on. There was a fight the following night. This is the way matadors travel.

Many parts of Madrid take you back many centuries. But don't be fooled - Spain is one of the most modern and progressive counties in Europe. Half the cabinet are women, including the defence minister. There is gay marriage, quickie divorces, legalised abortion, and there is the ancient blood sport of bullfighting. How do you put that all together? It’s not easy.

The best answer is probably history, and the Spanish addiction to tradition. Bullfighting started in the town of Ronda in the 18th century. Every September, there is a fiesta.

Tell the people here that the European Union, and many others disapprove of bullfighting, and they will say "So what! Matadors are our national heroes."

But Francisco is planning his retirement. He's branching out, becoming a businessman, an impresario. He runs a ring in Ronda.

Cayetano has been moonlighting as a model, strutting down the most prestigious catwalk in Europe. He has become the face of Armani, and been on the cover of Elle and Vogue.

All that couldn't be further from the dusty town of Palencia, where the brothers were performing when 60 Minutes was there. It was not a major fight by any means. But Cayetano had drawn a very large bull - 1,300 pounds. His fight started well. He skipped backwards with the bull following, a common enough maneuver.

But then, he tripped and the bull was on top of him, leaving Cayetano laying on the ground.

In a split second, Francisco jumped over the barrier to protect his little brother, and fended off the bull with his bare hands.

Cayetano was having trouble breathing. He collapsed, and no one knew how bad it was. He was rushed to the infirmary. He was bleeding internally and his liver was seriously damaged. He was in critical condition.

The day before this fight, Simon asked Cayetano just how long he was planning to go on doing this.

"I have thought about it. But it's a very strong sensation, and helps me get to know myself better. Gets me to my limits. And that's something special," he told Simon.

Asked if he's discovered that he has limits, Cayetano told Simon, "Well, limits - I guess the limit is when someone dies."

Cayetano spent four days in intensive care and another month on his back. His liver was badly damaged but, as soon as he could, he went back into the ring.

In March he fought in Valencia. Francisco was in the crowd when a bull got to him again. Once again, Francisco jumped into the ring to divert the bull and save his little brother.

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