BULLFIGHTING

Badly injured Mexican bullfighter asks doctors to let him die

At age 64, Rodolfo Rodríguez “El Pana” held the record for the longest career inside Mexico’s bullrings

El Pana will never face another bull again.GETTY IMAGES

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A Mexican bullfighter who was badly injured on May 2 is asking doctors to let him die.

At age 64, Rodolfo Rodríguez, better known as El Pana, holds the record for the most years inside Mexico’s bullrings.

But his 28-year career came to an end in Durango, where a bull named Pan de Azúcar caught him between its horns and sent him flying in the air. He landed head first, severely damaging his spinal cord.

I come from a time when you wanted to fight bulls so you could buy your mother a house; now kids want to sell their mother’s house so they can be toreros

El Pana

As a result of the spill, Rodríguez is now a quadraplegic who requires artificial ventilation. Since the accident, he has been lying on a bed at the intensive care unit of the Guadalajara Civil Hospital.

“The damage is irreversible, there is no possible cure,” said hospital director Francisco Martín Preciado Figueroa.

Rodríguez, who can still move his lips and whisper, has expressed his final wish: “Doctor, let me die.”

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His physicians know that the bullfighter’s hold on life is tenuous.

“We will use ethical criteria and not act beyond what is necessary,” said Preciado about prolonging Rodríguez’s life unnecessarily. “It is very possible that situations will unfold that fulfil his wish. Right now, his life expectancy is measured by [doctors’] shifts.”

El Pana’s career was marked by derision. His excessive posturing, his phony Andalusian accent and his oversized Cuban cigars made him a favorite target of bullfighting purists, and he was systematically kept out of the more prestigious rings.

He wanted to be a star, but never stopped being human. The son of a murdered judicial police officer, he worked variously as a sweets salesman, an undertaker and a baker before taking up the bullfighter’s cape.

“I come from a time when you wanted to fight bulls so you could buy your mother a house; now kids want to sell their mother’s house so they can be toreros,” he once asserted.

His bravado and alcohol addiction sent him to the brink of retirement on several occasions. His greatest moment of fame came on January 2, 2007, during one of his false retirements, when he addressed the crowd at Mexico’s famous Monumental ring with a long, rhetorical tribute to the “damsels, princesses and whores” who “quenched my thirst and relieved my hunger and gave me protection and warmth in their breasts and thighs, and provided company to my loneliness.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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