Francisco Gázquez ‘Curro Valencia’ killed his last bull on Sunday July 26, 1987 in the bullring of Valencia. He acted in his second bullfight in which he shared the bill with Luciano Núñez and Juan Carlos Vera. He killed well and the public invited him to take a lap of honor. He was almost 40 years old. After so many years killing calves and novillos and – five years ago – after a most epic march in the history of bullfighting when on April 25, 1982 he was given the alternativa by Manolo Sales ans José Hernández El Melenas in Las Ventas de Madrid, the bullfighting cathedral, the most important bullring in the world bullfighting.
But this afternoon in 1987 Curro did not say goodbye to the world of bullfighting, he only went down one step. He decided to move into the ranks of the subalternos.
Thus arrived July 27, 1996, a day that should never have happened. It should have been considered a bad omen when, in the morning, the vets turned away all the animals. At that time they should have suspended the show, but, until well after noon, trucks loaded with fighting bulls arrived to present their load until – finally – they were able to draw six animals. Later came the devastating news that the three matadors – it is said that they were not happy with the changes – had submitted their resignation to the corrida. To avoid a failure, and a possible financial fiasco for the impresarios, three modest, local boys were found to fill their places.
I arrived at the plaza about fifteen minutes before the start time. Already a large crowd gathers at the ticket offices to want their money back. I decided to go inside to wait for things to come.
When a signal announces the procesion, a ramshackle group of thirteen bullfighters crosses the yellow sand. As they arrive under the presidential box, they stopp, remove their hats, and respectfully bow their heads.
From the stands a voice shouts: “Now what?”
Someone responds: “Old Miura is dead!”
The first three bulls do not leave a good impression. The fourth is called Ramillete. Curro Valencia will place the first banderillas, but he slips and the harpooned sticks end up in the flanks of the beast. Curro stumbles and falls. The bull lowers his head. A horn finds its prey. Twice he lunges at the man’s chest. Bullfighters run into the ring to deflect the bull with their capes but he does not want to get away from the fallen banderillero. Now he rams his horn into his thigh, sending him flying before throwing him back to the ground.
They finally manage to remove the raging beast away from his prey and pick up the wounded man and carry him out of the ring. But no one can save him. Curro Valencia dies before reaching the operating room of Dr. Aragón and his formidable team. When the loudspeakers announce the death of the bullfighter, all celebrations are suspended.
The people in the stands are dumbfounded and some openly cry when they get up from their seats to leave the plaza. Hours pass. In the moonlight, his friends carry the coffin across the sand to the chapel. All night, hundreds of men and women parade silently past the dead bullfighter to pray for him or simply pay their respects. The next day his colleagues carry him on his last lap around the ring before a black funeral car takes him to his hometown.
“Olé Torero!”, somebody shouts. “Long live Curro!” “Long live Curro Valencia!!
July 27, 1996 was a day that should never have happened.
This July marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Francisco Gázquez Curro Valencia. But the Valencian aficion have not forgetten their brave countryman, his monument is inside the bullring, on the wall near the ticket offices. His friends and colleagues, united in ‘The Friends of Manolo Montoliú y Curro Valencia’ and chaired by the formidable Agustín Fernández, ensure that his memory does not fade. Every July 27 in a small, but impressive ceremony, a wreath of flowers is raised over a plaque that commemorates his death in the bullring. It is a respectful way of remembering the good bullfighter that Curro Valencia was, a brave man who will always be part of the already rich history of Valencian bullfighting.
Cronica de Pieter Hildering
Fotografias de Archivos