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Ask Eva and Mari Paz

Mari Paz Vega and Eva Florencia answer viewer questions about the opposition to bullfighting, the career span of a matador and more.

Questions for Mari Paz and Eva

Reynard from Texas asks: From what I understand, it seems as though there is mounting opposition to this sport. Have you experienced opposition to bullfighting? Do you foresee laws banning bullfighting in the future?

Ella Es El Matador: Eva Florencia and Mari Paz Vega

Mari Paz: Yes, there is definitely opposition to bullfighting, especially when you reach the upper echelon of the sport. In particular, I've experienced opposition at bullfights in Catalonia and in Bogota, Colombia; there were insults and death threats in both of those places.

I don't see laws banning bullfighting being passed in the future. The sport is so deeply rooted in Spain, and at its best, bullfighting is of the people and for the people.

Eva: It is true that bullfighting is not going through its best moment right now. In my opinion, you cannot turn such a special and moving spectacle into pure business, where the most important element becomes making money. What's happening today is that the most important aspect of the fight are being neglected to make profit. As a result, bullfighting aficionados are not getting what they want to see, and they are the ones paying for the tickets to get into the plazas.

There has always been anti-bullfighting sentiment, and there's been much talk of it lately in Catalonia, where they want to refuse entry (to bullfights) to those who are under 16. Some of these sentiments play into other political interests as well.

But there are still a lot of fans for bullfighting, and the seats are filled in the major bullfights — because bullfighters are risking their lives, and the fights are thrilling. On the other hand, the critics of bullfighting are basing their opinions on theories, not any real knowledge of the bullfights, and I think this makes their argument superficial and hypocritical. Were it not for bullfighting, bulls would be extinct!

I want to clarify that I have nothing against people who do not appreciate bullfighting. It is something I have experienced in my own family, and in my home country of Italy. I would simply like to say that if you don't like the bullfight, then don't see it. But please don't disrespect us, or call us murderers.

Amy from Brooklyn asks: Generally speaking, how long does a matador's career last? What usually causes a matador to retire (other than being forced to retire due to injury)?

Mari Paz: As in all professions, the retirement age is usually set at 55. But as a bullfighter, you can continue on for as long as you want. Usually, bullfighters retire because they get hired less and less, and they lose hope.

Eva: Normally, bullfighting is a young person's profession. But there's no specific retirement age — it's all relative. There have been bullfighters who fought until their 60s, and others who retired at 30. There can be many factors that cause a bullfighter to retire: injury or lack of contracts, for example. But most importantly, to continue in this profession means that the bullfighter wants to risk their lives every time they step into the ring! Of course physical injuries play a part in whether or not a bullfighter retires, but I think the bullfighters passion for the sport is the determining factor in the decision (to continue or retire). You can lose that passion at any age.

Of course, you certainly have to be lucky with the bulls, and fan support is also a strong factor in when you might retire. The bullfighters need to be motivated by the people.

They say that once you are a matador, you are a matador until you die. I think this is true — it's something that runs through your veins. Most matadors, after they retire, stay in the bullfighting world. They might participate in the running of the bulls, or become train other bullfighters, and they might even bullfight in private or, at times, even in public. Bullfighting is very personal.

Questions for Eva

Many viewers wrote in to ask: How can we see your artwork? Is any of it available for purchase? Ella Es el Matador: Eva Florencia

Eva: You can see some of my artwork right here on the POV website.

Some, but not all, of my artwork are for sale. If you're interested in buying my paintings, you can contact me at evaflorencia [at] gmail.com. Please be patient, though, because I will not be selling my work until the end of my first solo exhibition, which will happen in the spring of 2010.

The paintings are also always much more vivid in person than they are through a computer screen. I will do my best to provide updates on the exact date and place of my exhibit for those who wish to see my work in person.

I have many ideas for my work, and want to experiment with different techniques, and create a collection of drawings. In the future there will be a variety of works, from elaborate paintings to sketches.

Someone had also asked about the possibility of acquiring copies of my work. I have not thought about this before, but will consider it for the future.

Michael from New York asks: The film suggests that female matadors are more accepted in Latin America than in Spain. Did you ever consider moving to Latin America to pursue the sport there?

Eva: On a couple of occasions, I have considered the possibility of crossing the Atlantic to fight bulls. I've discussed it with other matadors. To go fight in Mexico, you have to have guaranteed contracts with the businessmen who handle the fights. A matador who had gone to Mexico said that it was not so easy — it was like going on an adventure without knowing anyone, not knowing if she'd be bullfighting, and in uncertain conditions. I decided not to go to Mexico. I didn't want to go 9,000 miles and start from scratch again.

Questions for Mari Paz

D from San Diego asks: Mari Paz, were any of your brothers able to take up bullfighting? What region of Spain is your family from? Ella Es el Matador: Mari Paz Vega

Mari Pazs: My brothers were almost all novilleros (apprentices); because they didn't have the opportunity to make it to the professional level, they work as assistants in the ring. Three of my brothers are banderilleros and one is mozo the espadas. Banderilleros assist the matador inside the ring, and the mozo de espadas is the one that helps the matador get dressed and carries the swords and capes into the ring and during the fight. My youngest brother is a bullfighting fan.

My family is from Southern Spain. The region is Andalusia, and we are from the city of Malaga.

Estefania from Pennslylvania asks: The Pedro Almodóvar film, Talk to Her, is about female matadors, and I understand the film is inspired by you. What do you think of the film?

Mari Paz: Almodóvar's film tells a little of what happened to me in the capital of Mexico — I met a bull in the same way, and the bull broke my femur in two places. I like the film, but it has very little to do with bullfighting.

Filmmaker Gemma Cubero adds: When we started shooting Ella Es El Matador, Talk to Her was also being shot. We learned that for the bullfighting scenes, Almodóvar actually used a male bullfighter. So the body that you see in the film is not the body of a woman.





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