JAIRO Miguel Sánchez is only 27 but already he has two decades of bullfighting under his cape. People have had their eyes on him since he learned to fight at just five years old and left a crowd in western Spain slack-jawed when he killed his first bull three years later. Now his following is in the thousands, in no small part to social media, where he has over 10,000 fans watching his every step and sweep. This is the bullfighter for the Instagram generation – and he’s only just getting started.
The Extremadura athlete is one of Spain’s sparkiest stars in any sport, moving to Mexico at 11 to practice professionally after being twice fined in his hometown near Caceres for fighting underage. He’s been gored by bulls twice, both at the age of 14, the first time he broke two ribs, the second left his lung punctured by the bull’s horn, brushing past his aorta and nearly penetrating his heart. Another inch in the wrong direction and he would have been dead. Unfazed, he made a full recovery and, aged just sixteen, killed six bulls in just one afternoon.
His father, Antonio Sánchez, was also a professional bullfighter. “He didn’t want me to be a torero,” Jairo Miguel told the Olive Press. “He didn’t like the risk involved and I understand that.
“I get frightened too, still. Everytime I go in the square I am afraid. Not just for my life, but also of failure. I want to achieve my dream and become the best in the world.
“I want to succeed, to stand out and leave my name on this profession. Yes it is true you have to endure the injuries and the mishaps but to me it is worth it.”
While his parents believed their young son’s aspirations were just a phase, Jairo Miguel always knew bullfighting was a ‘way of life, a true passion’. As a toddler his mum couldn’t get him to sit still in front of cartoons but he would be utterly absorbed by televised bullfights for hours on end. “It wasn’t a game to me,” he said. “It was what I was always meant to do.” Less clear, perhaps, was his path to become a social media star.
Jairo Miguel wants to harness his online presence to revolutise the way people perceive Spain’s most traditional – and controversial- past time. He dreams of being recognised beyond the plaza de toros and be seen as a major player in the world of fashion and sport – and take a stab at being an influencer. He jokes that while the fighters of the past adorned shimmering jackets and billowing shirts , he trains in sunglasses and sweats.
“Unfortunately the world of bullfighting is still very old-fashioned,” he said. “It is good we have old values that cannot be lost, we have a code that our ancestors created but it does need a bit of updating.
“This new generation cannot understand us because of the negative connotations bullfighting has.”