From bull ring to taxi rank: Spain's moonlighting matadors

MADRID (Reuters) - When he’s not facing a bull in the ring, dressed in the richly embroidered costume worn by matadors, Alberto Lamelas can be found in jeans and sneakers circling Madrid in his taxi looking for customers.

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In Spain, where bullfighting is steeped in glamor and tradition, matadors are often elevated to celebrity status, bullfighters nevertheless often struggle to make ends meet.

Like many other matadors, Lamelas, 33, has to supplement his income with other jobs to finance the expensive equipment and “traje de luces”, or suit of lights, worn in the ring.

“Many of us have to make do as best we can,” he said.

Lamelas, who graduated from trainee bullfighter, or “novillero”, to matador in 2009, barely manages to score four fights a year. But he still sees bullfighting as his calling, despite waning enthusiasm among Spaniards for the sport. He trains on an almost daily basis in a disused ring on the outskirts of Madrid.

“What I am, above everything, is a bullfighter,” he said.

Lamelas made his second ever appearance this summer at Madrid’s grand Las Ventas bullring during the San Isidro festivities - the ultimate stage for matadors seeking to make a name for themselves.

He spent several hundred euros hiring a suite at a hotel often used by matadors or “toreros”.

Even dressing for the occasion was steeped in ritual. Every element of clothing, from the bright pink tights to the tie, was carefully laid out and put on in a precise order. Lamelas wore a deep blue “traje”, or suit, with gold epaulettes and adornments.

He killed two bulls in that fight. But days later, he was back at the taxi stand, reliving his highlights from Las Ventas as he inched forward in a queue of cars waiting for passengers at Madrid’s Atocha train station.

Writing by Sarah White and Carlos Ruano; Editing by Raya Jalabi