March 4, 2008 / 9:33 PM / 11 years ago

Boy matador flirts with death in Peru bullring

LIMA (Reuters Life!) - Battle scars from being gorged by bulls ten times his size line the face and right leg of the matador Michelito, a pint-sized 10-year-old from Spain who is one of the world’s youngest bullfighters.

Ten-year-old matador Michelito, one of the world's youngest bullfighters, is seen in a screengrab from Reuters TV. Battle scars from being gorged by bulls ten times his size line the face and right leg of the matador Michelito, a pint-sized 10-year-old from Spain who is one of the world's youngest bullfighters. REUTERS/Reuters TV

Armed with just a cloak and a sword, he has fought 56 bulls, slicing off 106 ears and seven tails as trophies. The bulls weigh upwards of 500 pounds (256 kg).

A graceful entertainer since age five, Michelito, whose full name is Michael Lagravere Peniche, works mostly in Mexico because he says he is too young to perform in Spain.

“Ever since I was young, lots of bullfighters visited my house and I went with my dad to the fights,” he told reporters. “That’s how I developed a taste for bullfighting.”

Over the weekend, Michelito defeated four bulls at Lima’s bullring, considered the oldest in the Americas, after a young Peruvian matador he was supposed to compete against pulled out because of an illness.

The crowd cheered loudly as the Spaniard prepared to kill, drawing the bulls within inches of his body.

“When I’m facing a bull, I don’t think about anything else. I’m focused on what I have to do,” he explained.

Animal rights groups have protested in Lima recently to halt bloody bullfights, which supporters say is an artistic cultural tradition.

Victor Leyton Diaz, the mayor of the El Rimac slum district that surrounds Lima’s bullring, said he helped put on the event to draw visitors.

“Cultural festivals like this attract tourists. We are doing everything we can to improve the image of El Rimac,” he said.

Reporting by Carlos Valdez, writing by Terry Wade; Editing by Patricia Reaney

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