Lonely Planet Writer

Matador waves his pink cape in the face of tradition

Embroidery worthy of a queen

Who remembers the nude bullfighting scene in the old Bigas Luna film, Jamón Jamón? As a parody of Spain's notoriously macho matador culture, it doesn't get much funnier than a naked Javier Bardem going, ahem, horn to horn with an angry bull in the moonlight.

For reasons that many non-Spaniards find hard to swallow, matadors are considered the epitome of virile (and straight) masculinity in Spain. They're just as feted as the country's footballers or actors, and their love lives are a source of constant fodder for la prensa rosa (gossip press). But - finally - some bright spark has seen the potential gay appeal of these strutting hunks in their lurid, skintight embroidered pants.

A little known matador called Joselito Ortega has been enlisted to wear advertising on his cape for a new energy drink aimed squarely at the gay market. The name of this drink? Gay Up.

Spanish matador (not Joselito Ortega) waves his pink cape

These two words will be emblazoned in eye-catching red across Ortega's pink bullfighting cape.

Not surprisingly, the staunchly conservative bullfighting establishment is up in arms. Surprisingly, their objections have more to do with the introduction of advertising into the revered realm of the bullring. Though Spain's top matadors make a mint through product endorsements outside the ring, it's almost unheard of for them to wear propaganda while fighting.

'The cape is a sacred thing,' bemoaned retired bullfighter Curro Vazquez.

'All sports teams have advertising on their uniforms,' said Ortega, who insists his fighting methods won't change. 'I am going to go out into the ring as I have done until now, to risk my life, and the seven goring wounds on my body prove that.'

'If the gay community welcomes me as an image or a symbol, that is fine,' he added.

No blood on these hands yet...

Of course, it's one thing for advertising - gay or otherwise - to infiltrate the plaza de toros. But there's also a larger issue at stake here, which gets a regular airing amongst our traveller community. Is bullfighting an important Spanish cultural tradition, or is it just cruelty to animals dressed up in fancy silken duds?