Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez,, better known as Manolete, was one of the best-known bullfighters in the 1940s whose death at the age of 30 as a result of a goring in the ring, made him rise to almost mythical status during the latter years of the Franco regime. He is still regarded as one of the greatest bullfighters of all time on account of his exceptionally elegant technical style.
Manolete came from a family of bullfighters in Cordoba and had his first public fight in Cordoba at the age of 14. He was confirmed into his career as a bullfighter in a ceremony known as “taking the alternative” (tomar la alternativa) in 1939 reaching number one status as a bullfighter in 1943. Many of his greatest fights took place in Madrid, including his final appearance there which was presided over by the dictator Francisco Franco in July 1947 on which occasion he was injured by his second bull but continued to fight to the end of the event.
The following month of August 1947 he fought in Linares in the province of Jaén where he received a fatal goring from a 500 kilogram bull called Islero. The bull’s horn pierced deeply into his left thigh penetrating the groin area and causing a major hemorrhage from which he died the following day. He was buried in the family pantheon but later transferred to his personal mausoleum in Cordoba. Rumours spread later that his death was not caused by the injury but rather by a transfusion of incompatible blood after the hemorrhaging had been stopped.
Part of the fascination surrounding Manolete was due to his torrid relationship with the glamorous actress Lupe Sino. Lupe was a stunningly beautiful woman who was rumoured to have been married to a Republican communist during the Civil War. Manolete’s family, and particularly his mother, were opposed to his relationship with Lupe and regarded the liaison as mortal sin. As Manolete lay dying, the family refused Lupe’s access to him and thereby prevented him from fulfilling his deathbed wish, to marry the woman he loved.
In 2008 an English-speaking film was made about Manolete and Lupe entitled “The Passion Within” in the UK and “A Matador’s Mistress” in the United States, starring Adrien Brody and Penelope Cruz. Because of a series of production problems the film’s release was postponed on several occasions and its debut finally took place in 2010 in France and 2012 in Spain. The reviews of the film were uniformly negative and it was a box office flop.