|Now Available From Passion in Print Press
by R. Paul Sardanas and Tisha Garcia
Torera is a novel spanning thirty-five years in the life of a woman bullfighter. Across the course
of those years, Lucretia Maria Calderon will be pulled in two conflicting directions—to be a
dancer, or to enter the bull ring, a career all but closed and forbidden to women. In that time she
will also indulge in two intense love affairs, powerfully erotic, which highlight the dual nature of her
life as she bonds sexually with both the naïve and loving dancer Christian and the dark, harsh
After an unfulfilling year with a troupe in France, Lucretia turns her back on the dance world,
plunging into the wild and often dangerous life of the 1960's Spanish bullfighting circuit. Filled
with honor and tradition, it is also a career noted for passionate obsession and excess, shadowed
by the possibility of sudden death. With her dancer’s grace and strength, she becomes respected
by her peers and adored by crowds who chant her nickname, La Encarnado Beso, “The Red
Kiss”, during every fight. Her stormy love affair with Diego plays out against this background—a
relationship seemingly equal parts love and hate, underscored by intense passion and a
psychological struggle for dominance.
"Femme Torero" by Pablo Picasso
Excerpt from Torera, by R. Paul Sardanas and Tisha Garcia
Lucretia stood before the bullring stands, sword lowered, its point just above the sand. She shifted her
booted feet, then became very still. In the other hand she held the muleta, the red cloth frayed a little on the
fringe, the stick holding it bent. She inclined her head, requesting permission from the ring president to
perform the kill.
Permission granted with a nod of the man’s head, but with a hint of amusement in the president’s eyes and
around his mouth. Indulging the dilettante woman torera—no doubt wondering if she would blanch when it
came time to put the sword in.
Just watch me, seńor.
“Viva La Encarnado Beso!” Some fool shouted it from the stands, and though she’d brought that signature
on herself, she wished the idiot would shut up.
After the bull is down, shout all you want, fuckers.
Lucretia raised her gaze to sweep the stands, taking in the blur of expressions on the faces of the
spectators, ranging from gaiety to frowning disapproval, but most of all excitement. It didn’t matter if the
watcher wore colorful and expensive clothes or the plain shirt and trousers of a peasant— a thrill and a
madness rested on their features. Other cheers and catcalls rippled through the air, threaded through with
music in a background as trumpeters and other players high above the ring added their strains of drama and
The salutation made and permission gained, Lucretia turned to the bull, which had moved in the brief
interval after the placing of the sticks into the center of the ring. A difficult beast, yes, but one which she felt
immense gratitude toward, as he had shown courage from the outset, charging into the ring with the power of
a conqueror, wanting to fight. Lucretia had dreaded the embarrassment of a bull who would not charge, who
only wanted to stand still or to escape. For all the careful breeding and choosing of fighting bulls, you could
never be sure how they would react to the ring and the crowds, the attacks of the picadors.
Now he stood there waiting for her, wanting nothing more than to hook her on his horns, toss her, trample
her, gore her and destroy her.
Yes, you are a worthy one. I salute you.
Lucretia inclined the sword in that salute, then walked gracefully herself to the center of the ring, showed
the muleta, and shouted “Huh! Huh!” to cite him for the final passes. Adrenalin rushed through her as she
raised the muleta held in both hands with the sword supporting it. The pase de la muerte, the classic pass of
death. For an instant, the crowd, the men in her life, all of that vanished from her thoughts, as the bull
thundered to her. The smell of sweat and blood poured over her, along with the intense animal scent of the
enraged bull itself. Going high on her toes, she raised the sword and muleta straight up and the bull followed,
plunging past her right under her arms. He hooked at her toward the right, just as she had expected. She had
placed the sticks perfectly, so that even protruding from the bull’s neck muscles she could evade them with a
turn that would have given pride to her old ballet teacher. A roar, the exhale of the frustrated bull mixed with
cheers that erupted from the stands, cascaded over her.
Ah! Come at me, toro.
From the band up in the stands came the sound of Dianas, the music played to applaud a good pass. No
single words or phrases could be heard among the crowd now—they had merged into a single throbbing cry
and shout, like what she supposed the sea must sound like.
The bull turned. She stood waiting in the position of another pass of death, her feet together and
unmoving. Some toreros and even seasoned matadors would shuffle their feet in anticipation and uncertainty,
but she would not be so weak. Only strength and grace.
The bull came on and she rose up again, but the bull had learned from the first pass, and went higher as
he passed her, hooking the bottom edge of the muleta and dragging her in close to his body. Even though his
horns had passed her, he thrashed his head right and left, seeking to catch some part of her body on their
points. Lucretia pirouetted and actually rolled herself standing along the length of the bull’s form, scraping the
sticks and scratching her face. Blood too appeared on her Andalusian jacket—not her blood, but the bull’s.
There indeed was a badge of honor. A fighter who walked away at the end of the conflict un-blooded had
surely kept a coward’s distance. She stumbled slightly as the bull passed her fully and the dubious support of
its body was gone. The slip made her angry at herself, but the crowd sent another cheer to high heaven, and
more Dianas showered down from the band.
Now they will see me work!
Shifting the muleta to one hand and the sword to the other, she performed a high pass, the pase por altos,
and then in succession did three low naturales, causing the bull to turn and pivot in circle after circle. Lucretia
worked close, dangerously close her grandfather would no doubt tell her, but she didn’t care. She had
entered what the matador called the State of Grace, where her body seemed to move of its own volition, as if
turned on a string held by God himself. The plunging, charging, twisting bulk of the bull passed her in what
seemed slow motion. She knew she must not become giddy in the moment, but at the same time the feeling of
invulnerability made her laugh and shout again and again, taunting the bull with each miss.
The moment is here. Watch me, God, if you are here, for I will be an instrument of death with honor.
She performed a remate, which turned the bull and fixed him in a dead stop. Without hesitation Lucretia
raised the sword and went in right between the horns, aiming the point at the one tiny spot between the bones
of the bull’s neck where it could penetrate. A fraction to the right or left, and it would grate on bone as hard
and unyielding as concrete. It went in as if passing through butter. For a moment the beast stood stock still,
then he tipped, and over he went, crashing into the sand.
The whole stadium stood, sending roars of approval that Lucretia thought would deafen her. The band
played Diana after Diana. She wanted to roar right back at them, but grandfather’s favorite word returned,
calming her. Dignity. Turning, she bowed, then stood straight and raised her sword to the crowd.
Flowers, among them a multitude of roses, Panama hats, coins, and God only knows what other tokens
rained down onto the sand. Lucretia ignored them all, conscious only of the fact that someone pressed one of
the bull’s ears into her hand, symbol of a fight well fought. The exhilaration of it all brought wild joy into her—
she blew a kiss from her crimson lips to the stands, which made the crowd delirious, shouting “La Encarnado
Beso! Viva! Viva!” This time she didn’t mind the nickname. A rose fell right at her feet and she picked it up,
raising it as she had raised her sword in salute.
She took off her Córdoban hat and sent it spinning up into the crowd, then shook out her braided hair to let
golden locks tumble down to her shoulders, which raised the crescendo of the cheers to an even greater
fever-pitch. A wild extravagance…buying another hat would cut into what would be meager profits from a
woman torera’s pay. But what did she care? Today a woman fought! This day belonged to her.
Torera by R. Paul Sardanas and Tisha Garcia
Available in paperback and e-book from Passion in Print Press
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