Of all the bullfighters who have died in bullfights, Manolete is the most famous. He died in the ring in Linares on August 28th in 1947. The Museum of Bullfighting in Cordoba is dedicated to him. Manuel Rodríguez Sánchez, “Manolete”, was born in Córdoba in 1917. By the age of 12 he had already given several “capotazos” and the following year made his public debut in the Montilla school of bullfighting (Cordoba). He then became an itinerant member of the bullfighting show “Los Califas”.
In June 1939 he fought as a “Novillero”(novice) and one month later becomes a fully fledged bullfighter, receiving his “alternativa”, (a ceremony in which a bullfighter authorizes a novice to take his place among the doctorate bullfighters) in Chiclanero, Seville. He confirmed his “alternativa” in Madrid on 12th October of the same year at the hands of Marcial Lalanda. The great Juan Belmonte was the other matador on that unforgettable afternoon when Manolete proved his brilliance to the bullfighting world. By the end of the season he had fought 16 bullfights and had unbeatable prospects for the coming season.
In 1940 he appeared at all the top bullfights in Seville, Alicante, Bilbao, Barcelona and Madrid and became the star of Spanish bullfighting. At the end of the 1945 season he travelled to South America where his astounding successes in the bullrings of Mexico. Peru, Venezuela and Colombia made him the most famous bullfighter in the world.
An ongoing rivalry existed with the Mexican Carlos Arruza and with the young bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin who challenged him publically. The resulting bullfight in which Manolete triumphed in the Bullring of Las Ventas in Madrid would be his last in this cathedral of bullfighting.
Just days before the 28th August 1947 the announcements appeared at the Linares Bullring (Jaen) that Manolete would fight the fierce Miura bulls alongside Gitanillo de Triana and Luis Miguel Dominguin. The afternoon arrived and 10,500 people packed into the bullring in suffocation heat to watch their idol.
With Manolete’s first bull he fought a brilliant faena, then came his second bull, the fifth of the day. The bull was called Islero and it was a truly fierce Miura. After another superb demonstration of bullfighting Manolete prepared for the kill. The steel of his sword disappeared deep into the beast but immediately afterwards the bull’s horn dug deep into the bullfighter’s right thigh. Manolete complained bitterly as he was carried to the infirmary.
In the bullring he was awarded both ears of the bull for his display. But back in the infirmary he was given several blood transfusions but his state remained grave. Dr. Giménez Guinea, then official doctor of the Madrid bullring was called upon to attend, arriving at 4 o’clock. Within an hour the great matador was dead. The tragedy left the whole of Spain and all the world enthusiasts in a complete state of shock.