Rodolfo Rodriguez, "El Pana" passed away yesterday.
On May 1, 2016, El Pana was tossed into the air by a bull in Ciudad Lerdo, a small town in the northern state of Durango, Mexico. He landed with a broken neck, a quadriplegic. After a month in the hospital, he died, at age 64.
I saw El Pana in Tijuana in 2013.
In the traditional procession, El Pana entered the ring with his customary swagger, cigar, and glint in his eye.
As the senior matador, he fought the first bull of the afternoon. He could do little right. The crowd filled the arena with catcalls, hisses and whistles, with shouts that he should retire already.
After Joselito Adame and Uriel Moreno "El Zapata" fought their first bulls, El Pana entered the ring for his second bull, still being whistled. Completely unperturbed, he caped the bull with the capote, observed the picadors and banderilleros, and walked across the ring to the sunny seats to dedicate the bull.
Instead of dedicating the bull to a dignitary in the audience, or to the presiding judge of the bullring, he dedicated the bull and tossed his montera (hat) to a group of scantily clad girls in the front row there to advertise a certain Tijuana "gentleman's club."
He then proceeded to fight the bull, Cisne Blanco (White Swan), with the muleta. This time, he could do nothing wrong! Cisne Blanco, being a brave bull, charged his cape over and over, and El Pana never wavered. He dominated the bull. The crowd now loved him, and demanded the judge award two ears for his performance.
The fans threw flowers and bread to him. He then took the flowers and presented them to Hong Kong Club girls.
Apparently this was not the first time El Pana made such a gesture. At age 54, in what was supposed to be his last appearance in Plaza Mexico in Mexico City, he dedicated a bull to all of the prostitutes who comforted him in "his loneliest moments."
El Pana grew up poor and was given his nickname because as a young bullfighter he eked out a living by baking and selling bread. His career was checkered, and he battled alcoholism. He said he thought a bull might end his life, and unfortunately, one did.
The rose below is for El Pana, whose heart was as big as his swagger.
El Pana fighting Cisne Blanco.
Hong Kong girls catching the montera.
Club Hong Kong girls with El Pana's roses.
This rose was, and is, for El Pana.