The story of Juan de Castilla, the Colombian bullfighter who came to Spain financed by Fernando Botero and works in a courier service at dawn

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The day after his successful alternative confirmation last Sunday in Las Ventas, Juan de Castilla woke up at 3 in the morning to go to work. He holds a logistics position in a courier company. He combines early mornings and endless work days with his training because he aspires to be a bullfighting figure. Those who know him speak of perseverance as his main virtue.

Fernando Botero helped him in his beginnings, ten years ago, paying for the plane ticket to fulfill his dream of trying to be a bullfighter in Spain: “When I had already triumphed in the bullrings of Colombia as a bullfighter, it was Fernando Arango (retired matador, his first teacher) who wrote that letter to Fernando Botero telling him about my aspiration and talking to him about the qualities he saw in me. He answered us by telling us that he had helped other artists in the country to travel abroad so that they could grow professionally but that he had never supported a bullfighter. He conveyed to us his desire to help me with the only condition that I travel to Spain with Fernando Arango so that I would not be alone. From here we informed him of my evolution, my triumphs, my mishaps… he was always very attentive. Beyond how cheap the flights to Spain were and the money he gave me each month to be able to live ‘here’ for more than a year.”

The matador of Castile, humble neighborhood of Medellín, toasted Botero in the plaza of their land: “He had very nice details with me like when I bullfighted the six bulls alone in Medellín and he came to his barrier to support me. When he arrived at the square he went to the horse yard to give me a hug., encouraged me and told me that I was in for a tough test but that I should try to enjoy it. I gave him the steer whose ears I cut off. In my alternative, I gave the first bull to my parents and the second to him. Without his support I would not have achieved that goal or others that came after. He supported me to trust in my dreams, he behaved with class with me.”

There is no ‘chubby’ hanging from the walls of the Guadalajara apartment where he lives: “I don’t have a single scribble, but the important thing is the kindness he showed me.” She speaks with great admiration of Colombia’s most international artist: “As a child I visited the Museum of Antioquia on a school excursion. I was impressed by the volume, the different dimensions and the handling of colors. His personality was as special as his works, with all its nuances. Unmistakable. “He always cared about portraying Colombian society, I feel very identified with him.”

One of Fernando Botero’s last exhibitions was the famous exhibition of The circus which he presented in Medellín in February 2015. “He invited us to that special inauguration, we shared a good time with the maestro. In gratitude for that and for everything, I gave him my first light dress,” says this matador excitedly, who completed his confirmation in Las Ventas with a return to the ring. In addition to the “engine that was his family,” he remembered Botero in the toast: “For Master Fernando, without him it would have been impossible.” His second task recalled in the approach another historical figure from his land: “The week before this bullfight the teacher César Rincón gave me a bull at his house. “He told me a lot about Madrid, it helped me a lot and I will be eternally grateful.”

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