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Jairo on respirator, but expected to recover

4/16/2007

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.