Olivenza's invention. A success story
Olivenza is an invention. A creation born out of thin air. Three decades later it has become one of the benchmarks of the bullfighting calendar, in the media spotlight at the beginning of each season, which boasts of being a festival of Regional Tourist Interest and is eligible to become one at a national level, following the procedures initiated in 2020.
The idea came from the Ortiz brothers, owners of La Maestranza in Olivenza, and two young and enthusiastic businessmen, José Cutiño and Joaquín Domínguez, who back in March 1991 decided to organise a celebration in this Badajoz town to inaugurate the bullring’s renovations. Emilio Muñoz, Litri and Jesulín de Ubrique have the honour of being the pioneers of that experiment, which at the time featured this unique show. The master from Triana had the satisfaction of being the first winner in the history of the festival, after cutting off two ears from the fourth bull of the afternoon.
The boom came the following year in 1992. Espartaco, the leading figure of bullfighting at the time, made the paseíllo alongside César Rincón, who had been the revelation of the previous year with his four consecutive puertas grandes at Las Ventas, and gave the event the character of an event. Espartaco Chico completes a line-up which includes a bullfight by Cayetano Muñoz with which the Colombian bullfighter is a resounding success.
Both Espartaco and Rincón are fundamental names that have played a key role in the consolidation of this improvised series, which each year becomes increasingly popular and established as the place where the stars open their season. Ponce did the same in 1993 and in 1994 another fundamental name in the early years of the series joined the event: Victorino Martín. That year, Ortega Cano pardoned the brave “Garboso”, from the same herd, and the following year Pedrito de Portugal, another regular in Olivenza due to its proximity to the Portuguese border and the possibility for his countrymen to see the bullfight in its entirety, cut off the tail of the cardinal “Molinero”.
In 1997, Antonio Ferrera made his only alternative bullfight to date on this stage. This was also with bulls from Victorino and under the guidance of Enrique Ponce, who rode and triumphed with the “albaserradas” in this bullring with notorious assiduity.
The definitive boom came in 1999 when two bullfights were programmed on two consecutive days. Two bullfights with stars, of course. For the first time in his career, Julián López “El Juli”, who just a few months after taking his alternative was already a box-office phenomenon, was announced with six bulls for the closing bullfights.
The day before, master bullfighter Espartaco returned to the bullring after a four-year forced absence. These two events attract huge media attention, the national press makes Olivenza the front page of their respective editions, and it has become fashionable among the fans to come to Olivenza to kick off each season.
The comebacks are another of the attractions of this first important event of the year. In Olivenza, stars including Espartaco, Jesulín de Ubrique, Ortega Cano and Juan José Padilla have all made their return to the bullring after interrupting their careers for personal reasons or due to unfortunate mishaps.
Morante, the Rivera Ordóñez brothers, Manzanares, father and son, Castella, Roca Rey, Pablo Aguado, the Extremaduran Perera, Talavante, Emilio de Justo, Ginés Marín, José Garrido, the Mexicans Joselito and Luis David Adame or Leo Valadez, as well as the rejoneadores Hermoso de Mendoza and Diego Ventura round off the most frequent names at the Feria del Toro (Bullfighting Fair) in recent years.
Even the novilladas (young bullfights) have served as a luxurious appetizer to the central plot. For several years, there have been as many as two bullfights held in the same fair, with five events during the weekend, two of them in the morning, on Saturday and Sunday, making a double bullfighting day on both days.
Award ceremonies, conferences and tributes to different leading lights from inside and outside the bullfighting world complete each year’s programme, with a good atmosphere at night, both in Olivenza itself and in nearby Badajoz, where the Hotel Río becomes one of the nerve centres of the fair, hosting professionals and enthusiasts, who coexist during the first weekend of March while warming up for what is always expected to be an exciting season.