The Mexican “dwarf bullfighters” are carrying on a tradition born in Spain along with regular bullfighting, as well as an even longer legacy of “little people” as entertainers. But they say the ring showcases their skill and comic artistry, making them more than just a curiosity.
While the young bullocks they use are half the weight of regular fighting bulls, they are bred to be aggressive and, from a dwarf’s perspective, are just as frightening as the real thing.
“It’s scary when you are face to face with a bull. It hurts when you get hit. And it’s dangerous if the bull falls on you,” said Antonio Garcia, 40. Before entering the ring, he showed off scars on his head and dental repairs needed after run-ins with bulls.
“But I like it. I do it more for the fun than the money. I love being an artist, and, thanks to being short, I’ve had this opportunity to travel to lots of places,” he said, grinning.
His troupe, which takes its show all over Mexico and the United States, does not fight the bullocks to the death but, like bloodless “corridas” in Portugal and France, it uses traditional bullfighting skills to lure and dodge them.
The small-statured “toreros” wear traditional gold-trimmed matador suits with pink stockings and black slippers and use pink and red capes to perform passes.
While the bullock is a constant danger, the show descends into comedy when two dwarf “picadors” enter the ring.
Instead of sitting on horses and spearing the bullock with spiked wooden pikes as in real bullfighting, the pair have fleecy pantomime-style dummy horses attached to their sides, providing padding, and their aim is to hit the animal with a squeezy plastic hammer.
“People laugh a lot at what we do, and that’s the point, making the public laugh. It’s very satisfying,” said Jorge Reyes, 48, who shines shoes during the week and bullfights on the weekends for fun and extra money.
“It’s just like being a normal-sized comic. For me there is no complex, I feel normal,” said Reyes, who is married to an ordinary-sized woman and lives in Mexico City.
The troupe’s manager, Eduardo Ferandel, says Reyes was overcome with emotion when the show came to his home town several years ago, and for the first time in his life he saw other adults his size. Reyes joined the troupe immediately.