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Home Culture The very dignified and curious story of the Colombian bullfighter Juan de Castilla | The bull, by the horns | Culture

The very dignified and curious story of the Colombian bullfighter Juan de Castilla | The bull, by the horns | Culture

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He says that he gets up at 3 in the morning in Guadalajara, where he lives with his wife, travels in his car to the Madrid neighborhood of Coslada, and goes to work at 5 at a package delivery company. He ends his day at 1 noon, and today, half an hour later, he arrived on time to his appointment with EL PAÍS; Once the interview is over, he runs to the gym, then has a light lunch, and two hours later he begins bullfighting training. He arrives at his house around 9 at night, with just enough time to take a shower, have dinner, and get into bed.

And so day after day, and he has no complaint; On the contrary, he assures that he feels lucky because he has a job that allows him to “live as a bullfighter” in Spain, although he still cannot make a living from bullfighting.

His name is Juan Pablo Correa Sánchez, he was born in September 1994 in the Colombian town of Medellín, he is a bullfighter and he announces himself on posters as Juan de Castilla, as a tribute to his parents, originally from that neighborhood where he was born. “And also as a gesture of rebellion,” he explains, “because the first time I bullfighted, I was 14 years old, I noticed bad faces among the attendees when I said that I had been born in Castilla, which is true that it has been a difficult neighborhood, from where Many hitmen came out of drug trafficking, but I come from a very good, humble and hard-working family, of which I feel very proud.”

Thanks to Botero, the bullfighter and his teacher lived for a year and seven months in Seville, “and I made sure to keep him informed of my progress in Spain.”

Juan de Castilla is announced next May 19 at the San Isidro Fair on the poster for the Miura bullfight, a position that he won in Las Ventas on September 19 against a complicated bull from the Sobral ranch. The offer came to him when he had already committed to bullfighting that same day in the morning in the French town of Vic Fezensac. A difficult coincidence, without a doubt, but one that he had to accept. “In my circumstances I can’t say no,” he says, “because of what a bullfight in Madrid could represent for my life.”

A life, that of Juan de Castilla, was not easy. He made a name for himself as a bullfighter in Colombia, but, in his opinion, the triumphs were inconsequential. Together with his teacher, the bullfighter Fernando Arango, he thought about the possibility of leaving the country so that his career would not be stagnant. “But we didn’t have the means to do it, because my parents couldn’t pay for my trip and stay in Spain, which was our dream,” he says.

Then, Arango had an idea: write a letter to the famous Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, who had been a patron of young artists. And the teacher answered them; He had never supported a bullfighter, but he decided to bet on Juan de Castilla, and granted him a scholarship so that he could make his way in Spain for a year.

“In the end, Don Fernando paid my teacher and me for a year and seven months an apartment in the Sevillian town of Espartinas, food, transportation, clothing, and we still had a little money left to save.” “He was very generous with me,” adds the bullfighter, “and I made sure to keep him informed of my progress in Spain thanks to his support.”

Juan de Castilla, natural in the Plaza de Las Ventas.Alfredo Arevalo

Juan de Castilla was only 17 years old when he crossed the Atlantic in 2012. Some time ago he had met Iván Fandiño in his country, who promised to help him and invited him to join the CITAR (International Center for Bullfighting and High Performance), located in Guadalajara, and the candidate traveled there after his time in Seville.

“I entered as a student and started working, and then I was a ‘todero’ more than a bullfighter; That is to say, I did everything: bricklayer, butler on a farm, waiter, poster-sticker, field worker, hunting assistant…”

Until February 1, 2022, he was hired by the Sending company, dedicated to urgent parcels and logistics, where Juan de Castilla manages the incidents of Madrid deliveries. He says that he is very grateful to the businessman, who offers him facilities to bullfight, attend tentaderos and allows him to enjoy his holidays at Christmas, which is when bullfighting festivals are celebrated in his country.

He took the alternative in 2017 in his hometown, and since then he has only participated in about 30 bullfights, and only 7 of them in Spain.

“I have been a ‘todero’ (I have worked in everything) before being a bullfighter, and I still don’t make a living from bullfighting, but I have blind faith”

“There have been years in which I have not had even a temptation,” says the bullfighter; “That is why the beginning of 2024 is so exciting, last January I triumphed in Manizales, I fly to Peru on May 12 and I am announced in France and in San Isidro. “I don’t have more, but I feel very lucky, and I’m delighted.”

Juan de Castilla is aware that the bulls he will have to fight are not, in principle, the most suitable for showing off, “but I prefer to suffer with the crutch in my hand than to be comfortably seated on the sofa at home,” he says; “and for this I prepare myself every day, to take on these challenges with the greatest possible dignity.”

“Unfortunately, I still don’t make a living from the bull,” he adds, “and this drives me to do so out of conviction and encouraged by great inner strength every time I dress up as a bullfighter.” “I feel blessed because I can make a living from my work, but what I do is harder than going through fatigue in the arena with a crutch in my hands,” he concludes.

He is convinced that he has only been able to show a small part of his bullfighting concept so far: “I consider myself combative, brave, always willing not to turn my back on complications and to enjoy when I overcome them.” And he qualifies his career as “a career of constant struggle and sacrifice, which has not been explosive, but every step I have climbed I have not descended.”

Ask. Have you ever thought about establishing yourself in the company and leaving the bulls?

Answer. “Never. Sometimes, I have a hard time seeing that others bullfight and I don’t, but blind faith remains in me. It’s true that I have moments of weakness, but I never throw in the towel.”

P. But the life he leads…

R. “I couldn’t maintain this life plan in five years. I sleep little and I try a lot. Therefore, my goal is to succeed before that time period. And I dedicate my life to that.”

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