Born Manuel Ben’tez Pérez on this day in Córdoba, Spain, courageous Spanish matador El Cordobés (1936-) began as a peasant from Palma Del Rio and transformed into who many called the greatest torero (matador) of all.
"For me, the bull is pure joy," he once said. "Like a wine that fills my heart and makes me drunk."
The controversial bullfight (corrida) has been the national sport of Spain since the 14th century and was performed on horseback from the Middle Ages to the 18th century.
Poet Federico Garcia Lorca called the sport, "an authentic religious drama" and many Spaniards consider this cultural tradition to be a test of a man's intelligence and will.
"Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters," said writer Ernest Hemingway, who in his classic novel Death In the Afternoon observed how the sport was art, "the emotional and spiritual intensity and pure classic beauty that can be produced by a man, an animal, and a piece of scarlet serge draped on a stick."
For El Cordobés, his career (1959-1971) celebrated machismo and drama. Known for his theatrical style and quick, athletic body, he was called unorthodox as he worked boldly, close to the bull's horns.
"Where is the university for courage?" El Cordobés asked. "The university for courage is to do what you believe in!"
Believe in yourself.