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The Lady is a Bullfighter
Article first published in Vol. 10, 1992.
By Linda Tarin
The muscular bull, saliva dripping from its mouth, runs widely through the ring. A fierce look in this eyes, he charges savagely all around him. The toreros scatter in a frenzy, jumping behind the barriers in an attempt to escape the deadly horns that crash full force into the thick wooden barrier.
Just then the matador steps out into the dusty ring, ready to face the angry bull. But it is not the strong image of a man one usually expects. Instead, walking out into the ring, a young, blonde North American girl appears, ready todo what she likes most: engage in battle with a ferocious bull.
Pat Hayes acknowledges her applause.
This was the scene repeated many times by Pat Hayes, a young girl from San Angelo, Texas, who, after being influenced by books and movies about bullfighting , realized the dream of one day becoming a female bullfighter.
Patricia Hayes, now Patricia Hayes Franklin, had her first taste of bullfighting in 1953 when she was a music student at North Texas State University. One Sunday afternoon her sister and brother-in-law took her to her first corrida de toros in the bordertown of Acuña, Mexico, across from Del Rio Texas. After that she couldn't stop thinking about bullfighting and watching movies about it.
One of these movies, Lady and the Bullfighter, left her so exited about bullfighting that she arranged to visit Mexico City, full of determination but speaking only three words of Spanish: "Sí," "No," and "Gracias." She already had established a contact in Mexico, a man named Carlos Almanza, who owned a travel agency there.
Almanza arranged an invitation to a ranch for her where she had read and seen on the screen. But she was eager to learn more, and she went out and bought a wrap-around skirt to use in place of a cape, which she didn't own.
She laughs as she remembers showing up in the ring wearing a blouse and knee-length pants, like those of a bullfighter, huaraches on her feet, and in her hands the little skirt she'd be using as a cape. The rancher looked at her pitifully and asked if that was what she was going to use to fight. She began training by fighting cows, as was traditional on the ranches.
"For about an hour and forty-five minutes, I was getting beaten, kicked around, my shirt torn, the whole thing!" she laughs. But after two or three passes with the skirt, she knew she wanted to be a bullfighter. El Pasoan Bill C. Hayes laughs when he remembers the family's reaction to his sister's announcement about becoming a bullfighter.
Everyone lived in different parts of Texas, and no one wanted her to do it . "I'll tell you, the wires were hot," he exclaimed. When she was in Mexico, the family tried everything, even not sending her money, to get her to quit.
But they weren't able to get her to change her mind and decided they had no choice but to back her up. Franklin credits her father, John H. Hayes, with having been the most supportive and confident in her abilities as a bullfighter.
She went a long way from the early days fighting cows at a ranch to fighting bulls in rings all over Mexico, Ecuador and Portugal. While many women had someone else place the banderillas, she placed her own. Unlike her pitiful appearance that day on the ranch when she was up against a cow, Miss Hayes looked every bit the bullfighter when she was in the ring as a professional.
When fighting bulls, Pat Hayes wore what is called a traje campero, a Spanish suit, almost like a flamenco dancer's costume. She wore boots, tight fitting pants, a short vest, snug jacket, a Spanish blouse with ruffles, and a Cordovés sombrero, a black, flat-brimmed hat.
She had once seen a woman bullfighter who had a suit of lights made like culottes, and hoped that one-day she could have one made for herself, but that never happened. The female bullfighters normally didn't wear the suit of lights, or traje de luces, but no matter what she wore in the ring, Pat Hayes had the strength, the ability and the fearlessness to fight the bulls skillfully and gracefully.
As Bill Hayes recalls, "People called her the Grace Kelly of the bullring," and although he was proud of his sister, he wasn't sure that he wanted her bullfighting. He just didn't want his sister doing it, and he only saw her fight once. On that occasion the bull was tearing up the ring, making all the men jump out of the way. Hayes was afraid he was going to witness his sister get gored. It was hard seeing his little sister in the bullring under those circumstances; he ended that day with a stomachache. As difficult as it was for him to watch his sister in the bullring, it was even more difficult for her working in it.
Luckily she was never gored, but she did receive bumps, bruises, broken ribs and brain concussion. Looking back, Franklin says that it is more difficult for the female bullfighter than it is for her male counterpart. "It's hard on her to take all the beating. A man is a little more set up for that," she says. Some men can fight bulls until they're in their sixties, while a woman can fight only into her late twenties or early thirties, Franklin remarks.
Even thought she was exposed to the same dangers as males, Hayes was not allowed to become a member of the union. The bullfighters were cordial to her, but because of union politics among the bullfighters, they didn't want women in the organization. She wanted to belong to the union so she could have hospitalization if she got injured, so they let her join after she agreed not to vote.
Considering the dangers, it's amazing that at a time when women were considered weak, a young woman could have the courage to go against the norm and become a bullfighter. The motivation behind her becoming a torera could have been part of her creative streak. That creativity also inspired her to paint and play various musical instruments. The artistic drive has to be credited for inspiring Patricia Hayes to become a bullfighter. It's a hard life, and it's even harder to get a name. Luckily she got lot publicity, but she still didn't make the money she had hoped for. That would have meant staying in another ten years and she had to get out.
After retiring from bullfighting, Patricia Hayes continued painting and later married. She presently lives in Temple, Texas, where she helps her theologian husband Richard N. Franklin with his work.
As she looks back on her career, she recalls some frustrations. "Well, I was disappointed that I didn't fulfill the dream of getting that traje de luces, culottes. And not making enough money to pay back my father. I made money, but I had to invest it back into publicity and equipment, things like that," she says. Though she didn't realize her dreams completely, this blonde norteamericana has made a place for herself in the annals of bullfighting.