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August 24 2019
Spanish matador José Tomás during a bullfight in Algeciras, Spain, 2007.

On a scorching July afternoon, the 36-year-old matador Paco Ureña is standing on the edge of a dirt bullring in the ancient town of Arévalo, an hour’s drive north of Madrid, the pink and gold silks of his traje de luces, or suit of lights, catching the sun.

Ureña dedicates his fight to the audience, where I sit in the third row. The crowd—in straw hats, cigars lolling out of mouths, shouting for music from the live band dressed in white—roars its approval. When the bull is released, it’s particularly aggressive, running with its horns up toward the picador, who stabs it from atop his horse before the banderilleros come out for the second phase of the bullfight, acrobatically jabbing the animal in the neck with pairs of barbed sticks.

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