The first day of May 2022, marks the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Manolo Calvo Bonichon ‘Montoliú’, one of the greatest Valencian banderilleros of the second half of the 20th century. Montoliú died on the horns of Cubatisto in the Maestranza of Sevilla on May 1, 1992.
In his highlight years I watched him on many afternoons and always admired his dominance over the bulls he faced. Over the years, the heir of Enrique Berenguer, “Blanquet,” Alfredo David, and his master Paco Honrubia, improved his art and expanded his knowledge of the unpredictable nature of bulls. Throughout his career, novice matadors as well as veterans came to depend on him and were honored and excited to have him by their side. “You should approach a bull very calmly and concentrate on the moment he chooses to charge” he always said.
Six weeks before his death, on the day of San José and an important day in the taurine calendar, Valencia saw Montoliú perform for the last time in the cuadrilla of his friend, matador José María Manzanares (RIP). The first bull was a Peralta. It was weak and although two pairs of banderillas had already been placed–and against the will of the matador–the president still called for a third pair. Manolo gave a little shrug and took up his tools. The scene that followed was unforgettable. With both sticks in his right hand the master banderillero, dressed in a pearl-grey and silver suit, walked to the center of the ring, turned to face the bull. He then threw one stick in the air and caught it with his left hand, tapped the two sticks together, tap-tap, and took a few steps forward to attract the animal’s attention. When it charged, circled him and in one flowing movement jabbed the banderillas in the back of the bull and quietly walked away. It was perfection. For a few seconds, the fully packed stands were silent, then the crowd exploded, whistling and cheering this unique master. Reluctantly and only after his matador urged him to do so, he took off his hat and saluted the public, thanking them for their kindness.
Valencia will never forget Manuel Calvo Bonichón Manolo Montoliú. This year, after two years of silence due to the coronavirus pandemic, once more friends and admirers will gather around the bronze monument outside Valencia’s plaza de toros. On May 1, a wreath will be lifted onto his shoulders. This small but impressive ceremony has been organized since Manolo lost his life on the sand of the Maestranza on that fateful evening. The Association Friends of Manolo Montoliú and Curro Valencia (the name of the Valencian banderillero was added in 1996 when he died on the horns of the bull Ramillete) presided over by Montoliu’s tireless former colleague Agustín Fernández, makes sure his memory will not fade. Although I won’t be there in person, I count myself lucky to be part of this proud group.
Cronica de Pieter Hilderin
Fotografqia de Mateo de Tauroimagenplus