La Puerta del Príncipe: Rules and controversy
Most people know that in order to open the Puerta del Príncipe (Prince’s Gate) in Seville three ears must be cut (four if you act as the only sword) but what not many people know is the origin of this rule, and the controversy that preceded it. The maestrantes, owners of the building, had no choice but to establish it in 1982, after the maestro Manolo Vázquez, who, on his comeback, cut two ears on a Bernardino Píriz bull with Curro and Paula on the line-up, was carried out on the shoulders of the bullfighter at the Corpus Christi bullfight the previous year.
As there had been several bullfighters on previous occasions who, having cut three or even four ears, had not been honoured with this privilege, the maestrantes echoed the conflicting voices and drew up the aforementioned regulations to ensure that the shoulders carried from the El Baratillo bullring to the Paseo de Colón would no longer be arbitrary.
Documents state that famous bullfighters such as Joselito El Gallo and Manolete, who also received their doctorates in this bullring, do not have such a distinction on their CVs, and that the first bullfighter to walk through this gate was Juan Belmonte. Previously, the bullfighters left the ring on the shoulders of the bullfighters through the puerta de cuadrillas (ring door) onto Calle Iris. This is the same street that bullfighters use to enter the bullring to do the paseíllo (parade), and the same one that today the matadors who have cut two ears and not three leave La Maestranza after having been carried on the shoulders of the bullfighters through the bullring.
Even when some bullfighters cut a tail, they saw how the Puerta del Príncipe remained firmly closed after such a resounding performance. This was the case, for example, of El Cordobés with the bull “Bancalero” by Carlos Núñez in 1964, or Ruiz Miguel, after doing the same with the Miura “Gallero” in 71. Between the two milestones, Diego Puerta’s performance with the Marqués de Domecq’s “Gallineto” in 1968, which also merited the highest trophies and did allow the bullfighter from Seville to open the “princely” gate.
Since the rule was established, only two professionals can boast that they have carried off a tail in the Sevillian ring, the rejoneador Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza in 1999 from a Fermín Bohórquez bull and José Antonio Morante de la Puebla from the Garcigrande bull “Ligerito” in 2023.
Perhaps the best remembered anecdote before the rule became the norm was in 1966, when the then novillero Francisco Rivera “Paquirri” was given the Puerta del Príncipe after cutting three ears and, the following week, the also novillero José Manuel Inchausti “Tinín” was denied the same honour after winning the same number of trophies. The bullfighter from Madrid decided to jump over the barrier and cross the threshold to the Guadalquivir on foot.
The bullfighter who has most often crossed this important gateway in triumph has been Julián López, “El Juli”, with up to seven victories on his record, although the first of them, in 1999, he was unable to do so after being injured by a bull from Jandilla. With five, he is closely followed by two idols of the Sevillian fans, Curro Romero and Juan Antonio Ruiz “Espartaco”. One less (4) is for Manuel Jesús “El Cid” and three for José María Manzanares Jr.
The list of bullfighters who have won the highest distinction of bullfighting in Seville on a couple of occasions is even longer, including José Tomás, Morante de la Puebla, Emilio Muñoz, Manolo Vázquez, Salvador Cortés and Tomás Rufo. As for the rejoneadores, (mounted bullfighters who use a lance) Diego Ventura heads the table with a dozen entorchados followed by Javier Buendía with seven.
Last but not least, there were two “honorary” Puertas del Príncipe for José María Manzanares Sr. and Juan Antonio Ruiz “Espartaco”. The former was spontaneously brought out by his own companions after suddenly cutting off his tail, after performing with Hermoso de Mendoza and the novillero (apprentice bullfighter) Cayetano in the mixed bullfight of 1st May 2006. Unlucky with his pack of bulls, the master from Alicante decided, in an outburst, to give up the profession and asked his first-born son to take off his pendant at the end of his performance.
Meanwhile, Espartaco decided to reappear in 2014 to give the alternative to his countryman Borja Jiménez and thus open a season in which the leading figures of bullfighting had been absent due to disagreements with the company. The maestro from Espartinas cut an ear from each of his Juan Pedro Domecq bulls and after his son had cut off his tail, he was hoisted onto the shoulders of his fellow bullfighters and carried back to the hotel. It was undoubtedly the dream of everyone who makes the paseíllo in such a unique setting.