Hoaxes & Rumors

Classic Miscaption: The Compassionate Matador

Classic Miscaption: The Compassionate Matador

A touching photo shows a “compassionate matador” who broke down during a bullfight and immediately realized that bullfighting was wrong.

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The Story

Let’s first take a look at the story which has circulated for years. The highly shared photo has often included a touching story, which reads:

“And suddenly, I looked at the bull. He had this innocence that all animals have in their eyes, and he looked at me with this pleading. It was like a cry for justice, deep down inside of me. I describe it as being like a prayer — because if one confesses, it is hoped, that one is forgiven. I felt like the worst sh-t on earth.”

This photo shows the collapse of Torrero Alvaro Munera, as he realized in the middle of his last fight … the injustice to the animal. From that day forward he became an opponent of bullfights.

A more recent caption for the photo states:

Compassion: This incredible photo marks the end of Matador Torero Alvaro Munera’s career. He collapsed in remorse mid-fight when he realized he was having to prompt this otherwise gentle beast to fight. He went on to become an avid opponent of bullfights. Even grievously wounded, the bull did not attack Munera. May we all support the welfare of non-human species.

The Photo

Although the caption above describes the supposed instant conversion of former Colombian bullfighter, Álvaro Múnera (also known as El Pilarico), the image is of a different man named Francisco Javier Sánchez Vara.

Múnera Opposition to Bullfighting

Álvaro Múnera eventually opposed bullfighting, but it wasn’t from an epiphany during a bullfight in which he felt sympathy for his opponent. His opposition to bullfighting occurred after he suffered a tragic accident during a bullfight in 1984 which left him permanently paralyzed. On that day, a bull named Terciopelo hooked Múnera’s leg and tossed him, fracturing a vertebrae in his neck.

Múnera had only achieved the status of novillero, or novice bullfighter, at the time of his injury. He was asked during a 2008 interview if he had ever considered quitting bullfighting prior to his accident. He mentioned two incidents prior to his injury, once when he killed a pregnant heifer, and another when a particularly difficult animal “refused to die.”


The touching description of the bullfighter’s pose in the photo is also misleading. The bullfighter is engaged in desplate, or defiance, which is a moment during a bullfight in which the torero mocks his opponent and shows domination by taking a vulnerable position. According to Bullfighting: Art, Technique and Spanish Society by John McCormick, desplante is when the torero “indicates his total domination of the toro by taking up a dangerous-appearing position in front of the animal’s horns. Usually the desplante is a trick, for the torero will occupy the area in which the animal is blind, and often the animal is winded as well.”

Bottom Line

The photo which allegedly shows a matador who felt sympathetic toward a bull during a bullfight – and immediately decided to oppose bullfighting – is incorrectly captioned. The man in the photo is not Álvaro Múnera, but a matador who was mocking a weakened bull. Múnera did decide to oppose bullfighting, but only after he was paralyzed by a bull.

The photo first went viral back in 2012 and occasionally sees renewed sharing a few times a year.

Updated December 5, 2015
Originally published May 2014

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