Michelito, the battle-scarred, 10-year-old bullfighter
AFP - 2 hours 54 minutes ago
LIMA (AFP) - - Michelito is just like any other kid. He likes playing guitar, surfing the Internet and watching Spiderman. But at just 10 years old, he is also a star bullfighter and has already killed 160 calves.
The pint-sized bullfighter is fearless and dreams of rivaling the best. One of the world's youngest bullfighters, the French-Mexican has become one of the sport's hottest stars in Latin America.
Bull-fighting "is my passion. My father is a bullfighter and I really like it. I want to be more famous than he is and I want to fight bulls all my life," he told the AFP.
Most children his age here dream of following in the footsteps of such soccer giants as the legendary Brazilian player Pele or the Argentinian Diego Maradona. But not Michelito.
"Manolete, he's the greatest," he exclaimed. The mythical torero, Manuel Rodriguez "Manolete" of Spain, was fatally gored by a bull at the Linares (Spain) ring in 1947.
Michelito, who began fighting bulls when he was just five years old, is following in the path of his father, French bullfighter Michel Lagravere.
"The first time, I thought of it as a game. But now I take it more seriously. Even if it's still a game, it's more than that," he said before heading into the ring. "I want to choose something different and become a professional torero starting when I'm 14."
Born in Merida, where he attends bullfighting school, Michelito practices swishing his red cape every day. "I go to school in Merida and work over the Internet. I send my homework every other day," he explained.
Over a breakfast of fruit and cereal, he talked about his passion for his guitar playing but also for cartoon characters such as "SpongeBob SquarePants", "Asterix and Obelix" and "Spiderman".
At the ancient Plaza de Acho in Lima, the oldest bullfighting ring in South America, Michelito pitted his strength recently against two girls, a 16-year-old Mexican and a 19-year-old Peruvian.
Thrown to the ground by a a young male calf, he recovered his poise quickly, to give a flawless performance with his cape before thousands of spectators.
The young apprentice works mostly in Mexico and other countries in Latin America because he is too young to compete in Spain, where the minimum age to enter the ring is 16.
Anti-bullfighting campaigns have denounced a move in Latin America that has seen a number of children facing off with bulls in the ring, calling for a ban on the fights where young beginners fight calves eights months to two years old.
"It's one thing to say you don't like corrida, but it's another to call for a ban on something you don't like," said Michelito, brushing off the criticism.
"I don't like football, but I would never criticize that sport."
Already a veteran bullfighter, the boy has killed over 160 calves.
Like any fighter, he bows before a statue of the Virgin Mary before entering the arena. And he has only one superstition -- on the day of a fight he wears his socks inside-out.
He proudly claims to have never been wounded -- "just a few bruises", he says -- during more than 100 bullfights in France, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru.
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Franco-Mexican 10-year old bullfighter Michelito Lagravere waves to the spectators after a bullfight at the "Plaza de Acho" bullring in Lima, on November 1, on the opening day of the "Senor de los Milagros" festival in Lima.
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