Jairo on respirator, but expected to recover

Updated: April 16, 2007, 6:53 PM ET
Associated Press

MEXICO CITY -- A 14-year-old matador who left Spain to escape his home country's ban on young bullfighters was nearly gored to death in a Mexican ring, his lung punctured by a 900-pound bull.

"I'm dying, dad, I'm dying."
-- Jairo Miguel on Sunday, immediately after the goring

Jairo Miguel, who has been bullfighting professionally in Mexico for about the past two years, was fighting at the Aguascalientes Monumental Bull Ring on Sunday when a bull named Hidrocalido rushed him at top speed and lifted him in the air, appearing to carry him several yards with one horn firmly lodged in his thorax.

"I'm dying, dad, I'm dying," government news agency Notimex quoted Jairo as saying immediately after the goring.

Jairo's father, Antonio Sanchez Caceres, is also a well-known bullfighter who came with him to Mexico from Spain and was reportedly at the ring on Sunday when his son was injured. The parents could not immediately be reached for comment.

The slightly built, baby-faced Jairo was billed as the youngest matador in the world when he came to Mexico almost two years ago at age 12, apparently to escape Spain's ban on bullfighters younger than 16. He once told reporters he had cried prior to a fight.

In his two years in the Mexican ring, Jairo has scored some victories that earned him the right to cut off the defeated bulls' ears. But he has also been trampled and knocked around.

In Spain, an aspiring "torero" must be at least 16 to begin training with small bulls but is not allowed to kill a bull in the ring before he or she is 18, said an official from the Royal Bullfighting Federation of Spain.

But in Mexico, some start as young as 12 or 13, and there appears to be a rush toward ever-younger fighters who have become a growing attraction in Latin America.

Dr. Carlos Hernandez Sanchez said Jairo was the youngest goring victim he had ever treated. But he does not think he was too young to be in the ring.

"These are injuries that happen. He's a great bullfighter," Hernandez Sanchez said.

"He was lucky, if you can call somebody who has been gored by a bull lucky."
-- Dr. Luis Romero on Jairo's injuries

Dr. Luis Romero, the surgeon who operated on Jairo at Aguascalientes' Guadalupe Clinic, said the bull's horn brushed his aorta and came about an inch from his heart.

"He was lucky, if you can call somebody who has been gored by a bull lucky," he said.

If the four-inch gash had been one inch closer to the heart, "this surely would have been a catastrophe where it would have been very difficult to control" the bleeding.

Jairo was connected to a respirator on Monday but doctors were confident they could restore much of his lung function and expected him to recover.

Jairo's injury revived a debate in Mexico about young bullfighters.

Juan Carlos Lopez, the manager of the Aguascalientes ring, said there have been even younger fighters in the ring there, but he would not give their ages.

Inaki Negrete, of the Mexican Association of Fighting Bull Breeders, said the responsibility for young bullfighters rests largely with their families, who are often the ones who encourage their sons to go into bullfighting in the first place.

"Normally, it's the parents of these children -- and they are children -- who put them into bullfighting schools," Negrete said. "It depends on individual judgment."

Maria Lopes of the International Movement Against Bullfights said both parents and governments that allow children to bullfight should be held responsible.

"Children, many from poor families, are seduced into the world of bullfighting by promises of fame, glory and above all, money," she said.

"What happened to Jairo Miguel is lamentable, but it is the result of laws that allow children to participate in bull fights," Lopes said in a written statement.

Jairo was not even the youngest matador to gain notoriety in Mexico. In 2005, Rafita Mirabal, then age 8, started in the ring, also in Aguascalientes, a bullfighting-crazed city 260 miles northwest of Mexico City.

"Rafita," as he was known, began facing down younger, smaller bulls and calves, but the animals still outweighed him by hundreds of pounds.

The trend appears to have taken off in the late 1990s, when famed Spanish bullfighter Julian Lopez Escobar, "El Juli," made his debut in Mexico in 1997 at age 14.

"Rafita Mirabal is too little in my view," said Negrete. While the animals he fights are younger, they can still break bones.

"It's very dangerous," Negrete said.

Bullfighting is fairly popular in Mexico, but is far from a national sport. Sunday's accident occurred at the popular San Marcos Fair, where bullfights are one of the main attractions.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press