Conchita Cintron, who broke into the male-dominated sport of bullfighting at the age of 13 and became one of the world's most famous female matadors, has died at the age of 86.
Cintron was born in Peru to a Puerto Rican father and American mother and began bullfighting in 1937, reports MSNBC. There were few female matadors at the time, and during the 1940s, she was one of the most famous bullfighters on the international circuit. She became popular with crowds because of the grace, style and bravado she showed in the ring, and was dubbed "La Diosa Rubia," or "The Blonde Goddess."
She travelled to Mexico, Portugal, and Columbia to compete throughout the year, as well as Spain, where it was illegal for a woman to fight a bull on foot or dismount to make a kill. In 1949 Cintron decided to retire after a bull gored her in the thigh; she was taken to the ring's infirmary but ran from her doctors and reentered the ring, killed the bull, and collapsed.
Later that year, in the final corrida of the season, which was held in Spain, Cintron entered the ring on horseback, but dismounted and coaxed the bull closer to her with each pass, according to her biography on The Women of Action Network. When it was time for the kill, she dropped her sword and poked the bull with her fingers in the spot where she would have stabbed him, and turned to exit the ring. Cintron was immediately arrested for breaking the law against women bullfighting on foot, but she was pardoned after the crowd screamed for her to be set free.
Cintron killed 750 bulls in her career and won over traditional fans in many countries, fans who didn't believe women should be matadors, all before the age of 30. She married and had a son and spent the rest of her life writing, working as a diplomat, and raising dogs. She died in Lisbon on Tuesday of a heart attack. According to Wikipedia, Orson Welles wrote in the introduction to her memoirs, "Her record stands as a rebuke to every man of us who has ever maintained that a woman must lose something of her femininity if she seeks to compete with men."
The video below, from 1945, shows Cintron in the ring.
[Image via Women In Action Network.]