A matador is the main performer in bullfighting events in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. Also known as the torero (roughly "bull handler"), he or she is the person who taunts and finally kills the bull. The role is also called toreador in English (and in Bizet's opera Carmen), but this term is almost never used in Spain or in Latin America. One of the most famous matadors of all time was Juan Belmonte, whose technique in the ring revolutionised bullfighting and remains the standard by which matadors are judged to this day.
A matador is considered to be as much an artist as a competitor. The style and bravery of the matador is regarded as being at least as important as whether or not he actually kills the bull. The most successful famous matadors are often treated like pop stars, with cult followings and accompanied by lurid tabloid stories about their sexual conquests. The danger of bullfighting adds to the matador's mystique; matadors are often injured by bulls and more than 40 have been killed in the ring. One of the most famous bullfighters in history, Manolete, died this way in 1947. This hazard is said to be central to the nature and appeal of bullfighting. He imposed his own style, which although perhaps polemic, gave way to passionate debates, talks and articles, leaving its mark to this day. He was to bring about a whole new concept in the art of bullfighting, establishing a clear distinction of fighting before and after Manolete. He took the basics of bullfighting and turned them into an art. His characteristic upright stance throws into relief the verticality of the bull. It seems as though the horned creature charges around a pole, the bullfighter's feet do not move, he lowers his hand, he holds his "muleta" backwards and low, turns his profile to the bull, and challenges, come what may. He stands pathbreaking figure in famous matadors memory.
If you were to read the famous matadors rankings and the corrida calendars in past issues of taurine magazines of the decade of the 80's, you would find very few names there of the matadors who have played a stellar role in the 1996 season. The vast majority of the matadors who have been the protagonists of the last season are matadors who took their alternativas in the 90's, and a few, who although became matadors in 1987, 1988 or in 1989, did not mature as full professionals until the 90's.
An interesting topic is famous female matadors. Before 1995, the year in which La mujer en el mundo de los toros was published, the task of finding that information would have been almost insurmountable, since there was very little in print that dealt with the subject, and whatever existed was difficult to find, and often unreliable. Imagine that you as a bullfighting aficionado would be interested in knowing about women matadors, or that a researcher would need to investigate the roles that women have played in the world of bullfighting. Before 1995, the year in which La mujer en el mundo de los toros was published, the task of finding that information would have been almost insurmountable, since there was very little in print that dealt with the subject, and whatever existed was difficult to find, and often unreliable. But Muriel Feiner, brought a solution for those people interested in learning about the roles played by those women in the macho world of bullfighting. Roles that were not very relevant to the history and development of this art; but, on the other hand, they were very significant as pioneer steps, that later facilitated the recent compelling appearance of Cristina Sánchez in the ring, competing on equal terms with men.