Black Culture in Spain: The First Black Matador in Bullfighting

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Authored By:

Eero Jesurun

In our CIEE course Intercultural Communication and Leadership, one of the assignments was to explore what motivates someone to be part of the now-vilified world of bullfighting. Ricardo Chibanga went from handing out advertising of bullfighting events in his childhood to becoming the first black matador or bullfighter in 20th-century Spanish history, the first and only known African Bantu fighter to participate in bullfighting in Spain. CIEE students also visited the Bullring in Madrid to learn more about the value system behind bullfighting, animal rights, and the role of race in one of the country´s oldest traditions.

Ricardo Paulo Chibanga was born on November 8, 1942, in The City of Maputo, the city that at the time was the capital of the Portuguese colony of Mozambique. He grew up in a humble family. His father ran a bakery, and his mother took care of seven children.

Chibanga got a job at the age of nine by distributing bullfighting advertising around the surroundings of a bull ring plaza, attracting tourists (mostly from other African territories) arriving in the city.

While playing with his friends to parody famous bullfighters, Chibanga was developing a great fondness for bulls, going so far as to show certain skills that did not go unnoticed by a Portuguese promoter who decided to sponsor him as part of the bullfighting event. The problem is that the show that the Portuguese had in mind for Chibanga, was a stereotypical comical role. Despite this, Chibanga accepted it as an opportunity to prove that he could be a good (and serious) bullfighter.  Soon after he managed to travel to Portugal and study "the art of dealing with bulls" in the matador training school of Golegá. He then moved to Sevilla (Spain) to work for Manuel Carneiro, who helped him get gigs and coached him.
In one of his last interviews printed in the newspaper El Público in June 2017 and before his death in 2019, Chibanga reflected on his experience in the bullring and being accepted into Spain´s elite contest:

"The opportunity that I had was unique, many people from Portugal had come to see me and I could not disappoint them, so before going out to the square I prayed to the Virgin of Fatima and the Macarena so that everything would turn out well. Then a famous bullfighter told me: Ricardo, good luck, you can be a bullfighter, you have to fight, you have to suffer, you have to fight, but I'm sure you'll do well. Good luck Ricardo. He gave me a hug and I was moved. And so it was, I killed the bull with the first lunge and cut off an ear, the only one that was cut off that afternoon".