Manolo has to fight his first bull at eleven.

And also, there, at one end of the building, at the very farthest end, was head. Mounted. Almost alive. Frightening in its power: the neck very strong, the horns very long and sharp, the eyes open and mean.

It's about a boy, Manolo Olivar, son of Juan Olivar, the best bullfighter in Spain.

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This book contains many Spanish bullfighting terms.

The Odysseus of this book is Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, the first of the Spanish conquistadors to venture across the southern part of North America. In 1528, he joined an expedition to Florida. As the large group began exploring the interior, shipwreck and disease as well as the general poor planning decimated their numbers until only Cabeza de aca and three others were left. They completed an arduous eight year trek across to the Southwest and into Mexico. This takes up the first part of the book and it is a fascinating record of hardships met with endurance. The second part, which like the first relies heavily on carefully selected material from Cabeza de Vaca's own accounts, deals with his term as Governor of Paraguay. The unifying element is Cabeza de Vaca's attitude onward the Indians. In the first half, he is shown becoming acquainted with them and in the second part, his attempts to protect them led to his being deposed on charges trumped up because of his dedication to their welfare. The author seems to have completely accepted the partisan report of Las Casas, the fervent 16th century defender of the Indians, in the wretched state of their affairs, and she does not indicate that the faultlessness of Cabeza de Vaca's administration is still a a matter of controversy between North American and Latin American historians. With these reservations, the book is knowlegeable in details about the period, well-researched and very readable. While there is some fictionalisation of dialogue, it is carefully pinpointed. As a moving narrative of martyrdom, this takes a fine second book by the author of Shadow of a Bull.

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And still they talked, endlessly, everywhere, about Juan Olivar. They talked about Manolo’s grandfather too; but very rarely, because although he too had been a bullfighter, he had not been considered a very good one. His grandfather had not died in the bull ring; he had died in a fire that had swept the town; died saving his son, Juan. But while he lived, he had fought bulls. He had fought over a thousand of them, even more than his son, but he was not remembered except as Juan’s father.

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And then, there was the museum, a building that housed the legend’s heritage. Here there were the books that told about his father and copies of all the articles people had written about him. There was a copy of the painting that hung in his own house: a great life-size painting of his father in the red-and-gold traje de luces. The one he wore the day he was killed. There was a poster that had once hung outside Arcangel’s bull ring announcing his father’s first novillada when he was thirteen.

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Another statue, almost as tall, stood in the cemetery, marking his father’s grave. That one did not have a bull. His father stood alone, very erect, very thin, against the sky. His eyes were raised and Manolo, standing on the ground, could not see if they were sad. In his father’s right hand were a bull’s hoof, tail, and two ears; in his left, he held a bouquet of flowers.

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In the main square of Arcangel a great statue of his father and a bull, taller than any building, looked down over the red rooftops. His father’s lean hands held the muleta, the cloth carved in stone seemed to blow in the wind; his father’s sad eyes sighted down the length of the sword at the lowered head of the bull.

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Sometimes Manolo thought Arcangel must not have existed before his father. Everywhere he turned he found shrines to the memory of the man he did not remember. In people’s homes pictures of his father were kept alongside those of the saints. In every café there was his father in hundreds of photographs and dozens of posters: fighting a bull, waiting for the bull’s charge, standing over the bull he had killed.