Francisco Romero.

The Romero dynasty

Francisco Romero
Founder of the 18th century glorious bullfighting dynasty. Little is known about his life. He was born in Ronda circa 1700 and is commonly regarded as the inventor of the muleta (red cape). Legend has it that he was a carpenter by trade. In his historical chart of the origins and evolution of bullfighting in Spain, Nicolás Fernández de Moratín states that in 1726 «… Francisco Romero of Ronda began to act as a reserve bullfighter and was amongst the first to perfect the art of using the muletilla, waiting steadfastly for the bull face on, killing it hand-to-hand». He adds that the bullfighter «wore suede breeches and jerkin, tightly fitting leather sash and attached black velvet sleeves to protect him from being gored».

Juan Romero
Son of the former who fought initially with Joaquín Rodríguez and then with his famous son Costillares. Juan Romero managed to fight with the greatest matadors of the time. He achieved a reputation as a safe bullfighter and was one of the best paid. He appears as one of the first to condemn improvised bullfights. He organized his own team of assistants and forced bullrings to hire them. Married to Mariana Martínez, he was the father of seven children: six of them boys, four of whom became bullfighters-Gaspar, Antonio, José and Pedro. His daughter María Isabel married another key figure of the bullfighting world, José Cándido from Chiclana. The eldest son Gaspar died in the Salamanca bullring on 16 September 1773 whilst serving as a banderillero for his father. The youngest, Antonio, was gored to death by the bull Ollero in Granada on 5 May 1802.

José Romero. Francisco de Goya, 1795. Museo de Arte de Filadelfia

Pedro Romero. Francisco de Goya, 1795-98. Museo Kimbell, Fort Worth, Texas

José Romero
His father was against him becoming a bullfighter, wishing him to take up carpentry instead. For a time he competed with his brother Pedro and fought in the ring with his rivals, mainly Pepe Hillo. Apparently they eventually overcame their differences. José had excellent attributes. He was regarded as a restrained intelligent bullfighter who performed with decorum and considerable success. He was fighting with Pepe Hillo on 11 May 1801 when the latter was gored to death. His best seasons are regarded to be 1802 and 1803. When bullfighting was prohibited in 1804 he was obliged to retire. Years later, in 1818, several bullfights were organised in Madrid in aid of the Brotherhood of Saint Andrew. José was invited to participate but on the first day was unfortunately injured by a banderilla and was thereafter unable to continue as a bullfighter. He was 73 years old at the time.

Pedro Romero
«Handsome of face, he scorns the risk that awaits him» Moratín, Ode to Pedro Romero Regarded as the most important figure in the history of bullfighting, he was born in Ronda on 19 November 1754. His father also wished him to learn carpentry as a trade but finally had to show him his own trade. According to Cossío, the first time he entered a bullring was at a bullfight organised by the gentleman of Ronda in Los Barrios, province of Cádiz. As a child he participated behind his parent´s backs as a young bullfighter at two bullfights in Algeciras. His early professional career was spent with his father. In 1771, as the second matador of his team, he killed the first bull in Ronda at a charity event organized by Francisco Romero. He was 17 at the time. In 1772 he fought for the first time in Seville. In 1775 he fought in Madrid with his father and Costillares. Not even mentioned on the posters and acting in his capacity as reserve bullfighter, he killed two bulls and gained the attention of the crowd. It was in 1776 however that he really achieved acclaim, killing 285 bulls. In Madrid they said of him that no animal proved too difficult for him. The following year marked the beginning of his rivalry with the Sevillian Pepe Hillo. One of the most passionate in the history of bullfighting, this rivalry was the cause of violent confrontations between the supporters of the different factions. At the end of the 1794 season he toyed with the idea of retiring to learn a new trade. Despite his earnings, for one reason or another he had not managed to save enough to support himself. He finally retired in 1799. As he himself said, «bearing in mind the 28 years that I have been killing bulls, on average 200 bulls a year, I reckon that I have killed approximately 5,600 bulls, if not more». Uniquely, he never suffered a single injury, not even the slightest scratch, in his whole career. He retired on 20 October 1799 after fighting in Madrid with Pepe Hillo and his own brother Antonio Romero. By all accounts, Pedro Romero had a strong and determined character and great physical strength. In 1830 the Seville School of Bullfighting was founded and he was appointed director by the Crown, with an annual salary of 12,000 reales. Following a brief sojourn in Madrid he returned to his home town of Ronda, where he died on 10 February 1839. Pedro Romero was the first matador to achieve respect both inside and outside the ring and as such added great dignity to the figure of the bullfighter in Spanish society. He was immortalised in Goya´s portrait and bullfighting series of engravings. His personality won him the affection and love of high-born ladies, as demonstrated by the following popular folk song:


«Two duchesses compete
for the love of a bullfighter,
his name is not Pepe Hillo
his name is Pedro Romero
his name is Pedro Romero lero,
lero, lero, lero (refrain rhyming with Romero)
two duchesses and a bullfigher.»

Cayetano Ordóñez,
«Niño de la Palma»
Fhoto: Martín.

Antonio Ordóñez. Fhoto: Martín

Francisco Rivera Ordóñez.
Fhoto:Atín Aya

The Ordóñez dinasty

Cayetano Ordóñez, «Niño de la Palma»
The founder of the second bullfighting dynasty of Ronda was born in the town in January 1904. His parents owned a shoeshop called «La Palma», which later became his nickname. In 1917 the family moved to La Línea de la Concepción, where Cayetano first began to perform as a novice bullfighter in the ranches of the area. At the age of 17 he jumped into the Ceuta bullring to join in the bullfight with young bulls and returned to perform in the same ring in 1922 with a suit paid for by a spectator. A year later he had his debut in Ronda, where he became the first bullfighter to be carried in triumph through the main gates of the Maestranza, and in 1924 he caused great commotion again when the same thing happened in Seville. From that point on he was greatly in demand by all the professional and amateur rings in Spain. He became a fully fledged bullfighter in Seville at the hands of the great Juan Belmonte. The review of the bullfight held in Madrid on 16 July 1925 and published in El Heraldo, states: «Since yesterday, thanks to Cayetano, we are left in doubt at all about what bullfighting should be. Cayetano takes it and valiantly sweeps the merchants from the temple. The contortionists of bullfighting have now fallen from their pedestals. The revolution has triumphed … The false idols lie in the dust. Bullfighting is revived. ¡Resurrexit! ¡Resurrexit!».
His last bullfight was at Aranda de Duero in 1942. He was the director of the Lisbon School of Bullfighting and died in Madrid on 30 October 1961.

Antonio Ordóñez
Antonio Ordóñez. He was born in Ronda on 16 February 1932 at his father´s estate Recreo del Niño de la Palma. It was with him that the third golden age of bullfighting in Ronda commenced. A bullfighter of exceptional qualities, powerful and with a deeply classical style, he generated enthusiasm wherever he went. His best seasons were 1959 and 1960. His rivalry with another great bullfighter, Luis Miguel Dominguín, and their intense hand-to-hand duels were much commented in the press and immortalised in literature by Hemingway´s collection of short stories «The Dangerous Summer». Deeply punished by the bulls, with thirty gorings to his name, he was obliged to retire from bullfighting in 1981 due to serious injuries. «Smooth, slow, gentle, harmonious, elegant …» were the words used by the critics of this Ronda bullfighter. During the time he was active he was indisputably the best. His understanding of the art of bullfighting was translated into an incredible slowness combining both expertise and inspiration. He was admired by well-known figures such as Orson Welles and writer Ernest Hemingway, both of whom he regarded as friends.

Francisco Rivera Ordóñez
Francisco Rivera Ordóñez was born in Madrid on 3 January 1974. He became a fully-fledged bullfighter at the Real Maestranza bullring in Seville on 23 April 1995. His «godfather» was Espartaco and Jesulín de Ubrique acted as witness. He is the latest in a great bullfighting family: son of the famous and ill-fated Paquirri; grandson of Antonio Ordóñez, from whom he received his first bullfighting lessons; great grandson of Cayetano Ordóñez; nephew of Curro Vázquez and Luis Dominguín; and first cousin of the matador José Antonio Canales Rivera. He currently combines his bullfighting career with the role of impresario of the Ronda bullring, continuing in the tradition of his grandfather at the annual goyesca bullfights held during the Pedro Romero Fair.