The death of Miguel Baez Espuny ‘Litri’ reminded me of a story I published not too long ago in my book Taurine Typography. It tells about the enormous attraction the young Miguel Baez ‘Litri’ had on the taurine world of the 1950s and the supposed rivalry between him and his contemporary Julio Aparicio. ‘Litri’ was born in 1930 and although he descended from one of the most important bullfighting dynasties in Huelva, he was born Gandia, his mother’s hometown on the Valencian coast of Spain. His grandfather (‘El Mequi’), father (‘Litri’) and halfbrother (Manuel Baez Gomez ‘Litri’ who died in 1926 in the plaza de toros of Malaga) all crossed the golden sand of the bullfighters arena. Litri retired in 1967 but came out of retirement to introduce his son, Miguel Baez Spinola ‘Litri’ to the taurine world.
This is what I wrote about him: Rivalry and competition have always been part of the fiesta de los toros, sometimes genuine but mostly artificial. In his poem ‘Cafe de Chinitas’ Federíco García Lorca tells us of the rivalry between ‘Paquiro’ and ‘Frascuelo’: “I am braver than you, a better torero and a truer gypsy.”
At the beginning of the 20th century it was said that José Gómez ‘Gallito’ and Juan Belmonte were the fiercest competitors (they actually were friends in- and outside the bullring). Then it was ‘Manolete’ against ‘Arruza’ and later still, Antonio Ordoñez found a supposed rival in his brother in law Luis Miguel ‘Dominguin’.
But at no time was an alleged rivalry so well marketed as that between major crowd-pullers Miguel Baez ‘Litri’ and Julio Aparicio. The climax of this competition took place in Valencia during the July Feria of 1950, three months before they were to be promoted to matadores de toros. Never before and never again did the organizers of one of the most prestigious summer ferias present the afición such a line-up: six novilladas with Litri and Aparicio in every one. The three-year-old bulls would come from the fields of Manolo González, Samuel Flores, Atanasio Fernández, Juan Cobaleda and Garro y Díaz Guerra. To end the feria the two novilleros were billed to appear in a mano a mano with bulls from Carlos Nuñez. A week later, when the festivities were over, the gamble paid off. The plaza had been sold out every evening and the crowd went mad. So what was the outcome? ‘Litri’ was awarded eleven ears, two tails and two hooves while Aparicio took home ten ears, one tail and one hoof! Since then, every manager, every ring owner has dreamt about copying that one week in the summer of 1950 because competition and rivalry is something they dream of.
Cronica de Pieter Hildering
Fotografias de Diputacion de Valencia Museo Taurino