THE PORTUGESE ICON known as La Diosa de Oro (the Golden Goddess) was neither the first nor the last female bullfighter, but she may have been the best. Born on this date in 1922, Conchita Cintrón’s “legend was sealed,” according to London’s The Guardian, at age eighteen in 1940. “She was gored in Guadalajara, Mexico, collapsed, and was carried to the bullring infirmary,” reported The Guardian in its 2009 obituary for the bullfighter. “Recovering consciousness, she insisted on returning to the ring and killed her bull before collapsing again.”
Most female bullfighters are rejoneadors, meaning they remain on horseback when battling their beasts. The Guardian called Cintrón “the best rejoneador of her generation.” She also fought on foot, despite a Spanish law that forbade women from leaving their mounts. During her last bullfight, Cintrón jumped off her horse to joust with a bull and was promptly arrested. “I couldn’t stop myself,” she confessed. Cintrón was quickly released after a mass demonstration in her favor.
During a career that stretched from 1936 to 1950, Cintrón killed more than 750 bulls and made no apologies for the carnage. “Would a bull who will be killed in the slaughterhouse by a hammer not rather die gallantly?” she asked a Los Angeles Times reporter in 1941.
In an introduction to 1962’s Torera: Memoirs of a Bullfighter, famed director Orson Welles wrote that Cintrón’s “record stands as a rebuke to every man of us who has ever maintained that a woman must lose something of her femininity if she seeks to compete with men.”