The Ordonez Family and Hemingway
Cayetano Ordónez was born in Ronda on January 4, 1904. His family ran the shoe shop La Palma, the main reason why people started calling him ‘El Niño de la Palma.’ Soon, he would spend all of his free time around bull farms near Ronda, grabbing every opportunity to rehearse with young bulls. At the age of 18, he got the first chance to show off his skills in a novillada (corrida with young bulls) in Algeciras. Curiously, this first official act was together with an Irish bullfighter called Trimbi, who refused to kill the bulls. Only two years later, El Niño de la Palma would triumph in Sevilla. Public and press went wild after his performance, and local newspaper La Union claimed: “The boy from Ronda shines during this glorious debut in La Maestranza.”
Meanwhile, Hemingway lived in Paris, where he associated with artists such as James Joyce, Dos Passos, Miro, and Picasso. At that time, he worked as a newspaper reporter for the Toronto Star, and, with his first savings, he bought a work by Miro, which he paid off in several instalments. Tipped by his ‘Lost Generation’ friends, he headed to Spain to see the bullfights for the first time. Impressed by what he saw in the arenas, his first article is titled: “Bullfighting is not a sport, it’s a tragedy.” Hemingway was literally blown away by the spectacle and got even more overwhelmed during his first visit to the San Permines in Pamplona. He described the fiesta as follows: “For seven days, the dancing, the noise, and the drinks don’t cease, converting it in an unreal world. This is absolutely the funniest and most crazy experience to live.”
In 1924, together with his friends from Paris, he ran with the bulls through the narrow streets of Pamplona for the first time, not realising that, until today, thousands of foreigners would follow his example. The day after, when a young Spaniard died during these races, Hemingway and his continuously drunk friends were shocked. They realised that festivities and death strangely enough go hand in hand here.
A year later, back at the Pamplona arena one afternoon, Ernest was blown away by the art and skills of that same El Niño de la Palma.
That marvellous performance would be a definite inspiration for his world-famous novel ‘The Sun Also Rises.’ Both men met that same day at a hotel, and Hemingway decided to travel along with El Niño to assist his next fights in Madrid. In the novel, El Nino’s character is named Pedro Romero, lyrically described at experiences shared during this voyage. Romero actually was the first known bullfighter immortalised on various occasions by cult painter Goya at the end of the 18th century. Hemingway would write another, more technical book about bullfighting named ‘Death In The Afternoon,’ also known as ‘the Bible of the art of bullfighting.’ He described, in alphabetical order on more than 50 pages, the wide terminology of the bullfight and everything around it. Let’s, for example, enter that alphabet at the letter c:
Cojo: lame; a bull, which comes into the ring lame may be retired
Cojones: testicles; a valorous bullfighter is said to be plentifully equipped with these. Those of the bull are called criadillas, cooked they are a great delicacy. During the killing of the fifth bull, the criadillas of the first bull were sometimes served in the royal box.
A turning point in the writer’s frequent visits to Spain arrived when the Spanish Civil War broke out. As mentioned before, he would come up for the Republican cause by collaborating on the ‘Spanish Earth’ documentary. His experiences during the Civil War served as the main inspiration for his novel ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls.’
When it appeared that Franco definitely would come into power, Hemingway stated; “I can’t stay in a country where all my friends are in jail”, and in 1938, he moved to Cuba, where he would later write ‘The Old Man And The Sea,’ for which he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
In the early fifties, in order to stimulate Spain’s poor economy, Franco signed several agreements with the Americans for the installation of US airbases on Spanish soil. From then on, no visa was required anymore for US travellers to Spain. Almost 15 years after his forced exile, this was the moment Hemingway had desperately waited for. His novel ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls was still censored in Spain, but friends told him that, as long as he shut up about politics, there wouldn’t be any problem. Still a bit paranoid about possible problems at the boarder, Hemingway was recognised by the customs officers, who surprisingly were very helpful, one even being a huge fan of his work. Past the three checkpoints at the border, the writer delightedly added: “We are finally back in Spain, and it seems too good to be true.” Ernest had no intention of getting introduced again to the world of the bulls, as he considered this a more or less closed matter. He did want his new wife to see the spectacle in Pamplona, and that’s where they headed. What happened there, one afternoon on the Pamplona feria, the writer would later describe: “It was a historic thing when we saw Antonio Ordonez for the first time, the son of El Niño de la Palma. I could tell he was great from the first long, slow pass he made with the cape.” When Ordonez invited the writer to his hotel after the corrida, he had doubts about meeting Antonio, because he feared getting completely involved again in the whole fiesta atmosphere… but, of course, never taking good advice from himself, Hemingway went to see Antonio. Having barely entered the room, Antonio asked him: “Tell me, am I as good as my father?” The writer replied: “No, your father was very good, but you are better.” For Hemingway, these moments definitely were like reliving the past, through the son of his Pedro Romero character from ‘The Sun Also Rises.’
Throughout the fifties, the novelist would become very close with Antonio, his wife Carmen, and with Antonio’s brother-in-law and Picasso friend, bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin. At the large country estate of the Dominguin family, a full-size statue of Luis Miguel was erected, and, during one of his visits, the writer concluded that it had to be hard to compete with your own bronze statue in your own yard. In 1959, both Ordonez and Dominguin were at the peak of their respective careers, and, during the most important ferias, a mano to mano (only two bullfighters for six bulls) between them was set up. These glorious afternoons, with sold-out arenas everywhere, were written down by Hemingway in ‘The Dangerous Summer’ and published by Life magazine. Ava Gardner, supposedly involved in a secret affair with Dominguin, only raised more speculations in this summer of glamour. The actress was introduced to the world of bullfighting when she played the leading part in the screen version of ‘The Sun Also Rises.’
The Spanish and international press criticised Hemingway for his open support towards Ordonez, something he would confirm later on. The writer explained that, for him, Ordonez was simply a genius. Dominguin, he added, was a wonderful companion, somebody who told him some of the damnedest things he had ever heard, but unfortunately his style did not move him at all. The more neutral Spanish press described the art of Dominguin as a “seduction” and the art of Ordonez as “love”. About this statement, Ordonez would comment later on: “To say so, one should analyse what is seduction and what is love. Love is easy to feel, seduction is difficult to realise. Reaching real love needs an intense labour of seduction, a history…
The union between both is the most beautiful in the art of bullfighting and in all relationships between two beings.”
It was one of the last summers for the novelist, because in 1961 he would shoot himself, just as his father had done before him. Remarkable were the tickets – for the upcoming feria in Pamplona – that were found close to the body. Don Ernesto, alias “Papa,” had symbolically reserved seats for eternity, being more than convinced that the fiesta should go on…
During an interview in the seventies, Ordonez would say that Hemingway had a tremendous sense of humanity, and, above all, he understood everything. The most absurd things he would understand, and he could perceive the circumstances of every act. “Once successful, we both had to face, several times, a classic Spanish matter: envy. We had a little deal that, while we both were alive, he would never fight a bull, and I would never write a book, and we frequently joked about that. To me, he is still alive today, I just tell myself that when I am in New York, he is in Kenya, and when I go to Kenya, he has just left to Paris… We both travel, but never coinciding.”
When Ordonez died in 1998, his funeral was held in the arena of “his” Ronda. He had chosen his ashes to be buried under the gate, from where the bull storms into the arena.
His philosophy was that every bull would literally run over him at the start of each corrida… another statement for eternity.
Welles enters into history with his made-up story of Mars invaders, broadcast on national radio. With the radio medium still in its early years, the story provoked a feeling of panic all over the United States. Welles concluded: “If I would have done this in South America, they would have put me in jail. Here, instead, I got a Hollywood contract.” So, Welles criticising the press magnate William Randolph Hearst in ‘Citizen Kane,’ received nine Oscar nominations in 1942 (at the age of 24), something the establishment of the film industry wasn’t able to accept. At each announcement of the nine nominations, the public started booing, converting these moments into a rift between the filmmaker and Hollywood that would never heal. With Europe involved in bloody wars, he meets Margarita Cansino, alias Rita Hayworth. She is at the peak of her young career and receives marvellous reviews for her role in ‘Gilda.’
They marry and make ‘The Lady Of Shanghai’ together. On one occasion, Orson initiates his wife into bullfighting, together with a Mexican torero. The press calls the famous couple ‘the Beauty and the Brains.’ Hayworth was the daughter of Spanish flamenco dancer Eduardo Cansino, who emigrated from Sevilla to New York in the early 1920s. At the age of three, Margarita would dance in her father’s show, touring small theatres and clubs throughout the United States. Welles never got along well with Eduardo, blaming him for having exploited his daughter since her childhood. At the age of 16, Rita was spotted by a talent scout for Fox Studios, and soon after she would be known in Hollywood as ‘the Goddess of Love’.
Poor results for his movies at the box office and due to the negative vibes with his producers, Welles decides in 1949 to emigrate to this beloved Europe. Before his definite move to Europe, Welles had spent already large periods in the old continent. Becoming an orphan at the age of 16,Welles heads for Ireland and in 1933 he installs himself in Seville, renting a small apartment above a lively brothel in the famous Triana suburb. In Seville he writes for various local magazines, meanwhile he gets fascinated by the bullfighting. So much, he soon starts fighting small bulls in public under the name “El Americano”. He soon realised his talents were limited in this art, especially the day when locals started throwing beer bottles at him during one of his acts,… leaving him with a scar on his lips for the rest of his life. Despite of this, Welles felt home, here in the south of Spain, and would say later: If in that time, I would have stayed a year longer, I would have fought together with the Republicans against Franco, which means that 1 would have died there most probably. In 1954 Welles is in Seville to film Mr Arkadin, his first entire European production. Through the years, the film-operator will work with production companies all over Europe and two of his films will be financed by the Sha of Iran, who wanted to invest in modern cinema. In the mid fifties he will complete a seven episode documentary for the BBC. In “Around the world with Orson Welles”, Orson is directing himself, with usual flamboyance and visual flair. This masterpiece of journalism evokes subjects as :“The Bask Country”, and “Bullfights in Spain” Its style surely was an inspiration for the recent and critically acclaimed travel documentaries done by Michael Palin, for example the six episodes document about the life of Hemingway. Shooting the episode about bullfighting .Welles meets various famous toreros of that age and comments:I think I have a right to speak about bullfighting, because I was, for a while, I don’t quite know why, but I was, an aspiring bullfighter. For me a bullfighter is an actor facing real things. I spent a good deal of time around the ranches where fighting bulls are raised. But don’t be worried, you don’t have to approve of bullfights, I don’t ask you to, and I certainly wouldn’t dream of defending the spectacle.
I, was personally fascinated by the spectacle as a “whole” but whatever your attitude may be, remember that you can plug for the bull and there will be no hard feelings about it. Welles becomes very personal friends with Antonio Ordonez, assisting the legendary “Goyescas” in Ordonez’ birthplace Ronda. Years back, Orson played and directed together with Marlene Dietrich, a theatre piece of Hemingway’s novel ,“The sun also rises”, inspired on the father of Antonio Ordonez, El Niño de la Palma. During a visit on the finca of Ordonez, the director spots a well and comments ironically to his chap Antonio: “I would love to have my ashes buried in your pozo(well), so my name will be always present in your garden. A man is not from where he is born ,but from where he chooses to die” In the mid eighties Welles daughter Beatrice actually brought the filmer’s ashes to the Ordonez family in Ronda, where they now forever rest.
Between 1957 and 1973 Welles worked on his version of “Don Quichote de la Mancha”. Unfortunately for the history of film, he could never finish this movie, because each progress evoked new financial problems. The Madrid film library possesses 40 minutes of this unfinished masterpiece. Asked for what role he plays in the movie, he says: I just walk in between the actors and I play Welles, the director of the movie.
In 1973, in Ibiza Welles completes his last full length film. F For Fake is an experimental film done in a pseudo-documentary style that deals with lies and artistic charlatanism (fakes, forgery and swindling) as it demonstrates the elusive nature of authorship and truth. The film mixes fiction and documentary as it re-creates events that never happened and presents interviews with real people and with fictitious characters. Welles then narrates the following tale, which he describes as a “reenactment” of a “true story”. In his later years, Pablo Picasso, living in the town of Toussaint, is struck by the beauty of the vacationing Kodar and paints 22 pictures of her. In payment for modelling, she gets to keep the canvasses on the condition that she neither sell nor exhibit them. Later, Picasso reads of an unauthorized exhibition of his work in Paris and decides to investigate. At the exhibition, the artist finds Kodar and 22 fake “Picassos.” Kodar explains that she showed the genuine paintings to her dying grandfather, a talented art forger, who used them as inspiration for painting the fakes on exhibit and then burned the originals. He called it a new dimension in the art of Picasso. End of the story. Picasso once said: “Art is a lie”, Welles concludes at the end of the movie: “Art is a lie that makes us understand the truth”. Amazingly enough the role of the dying grandfather was played by the real art forger Elmyr d’Honry, who copied and sold various “Picassos” for real ones. At the release of the film, the French government, with the firm intention to jail the forger, was intensively after d’Honry, who desperately committed suicide.
One of Welles’ assistants explains: In the Picasso story, Orson had me take pictures of Picasso out of magazines, blow them up and film them through Persian blinds and Venetian blinds, both inside and outside. “Don’t let any body tell you what to do,” he said. “And never make a movie for anyone else, or on some Idea of what other people will like. Make it yours, and hope that there will be others who will understand. But never compromise to make them understand, unless you really feel you have to. The lesson was simply this: Never need Hollywood, never depend on it for your financing, for support, for your ability to make films. Get your backing as far away as possible from what they proudly call their “Industry” if you have any intention of being an artist. For the rest of his career Welles would be relegated to supporting roles, voice over narrations, and finally hitting rock-bottom by touting cheap wine on television commercials, thundering “We shall sell no wine before it’s time!”, doing anything to raise enough funds in order to bequeath us such masterpieces as “Othello,” “Macbeth,” and “Chimes at Midnight.”
“I subsidize myself,” Welles said, receiving the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award. “In other words, I’m crazy!”
In 2003 the fourth Picasso museum opens its doors in Malaga, his place of birth.
The museum is composed by donations of family members and exposes one of the largest permanent Picasso collections. The Spanish press titles: “Finally Picasso comes back home”. Son of a teacher in Fine Arts, Picasso lived in Malaga until the age of 10. He will assist his father’s classes as early as age six and soon starts painting himself with astonishing results. The multiple pigeons, flying up the balcony of their house, located at the Plaza de Merced, and the nearby bullring, with its struggle between men, horse and bull will be important influences throughout his career. Before ending up in Paris, he spends part of his youth in La Coruna, Madrid and especially in Barcelona. An important part of Picasso’s painting were claimed by the French government to pay off the artist’s heir taxes.
Picasso is considered one of the main artist in “The history of Forms”, being the creator of a nose in profile on a frontal painted face, later known as cubism. He is also the inventor of the Collage, a technique massively used today in all kind of different media, for example the pc programme “photoshop”.
In the 19twenties in Paris, Picasso and entourage encourage Hemingway to go and see the bullfights in Spain…. an advice that profoundly changed the writer’s life.
In 1936 Picasso was entitled “Honorary Director of the Prado Museum” by the republicans who Picasso openly supported. At the outbreak of the civil war, Picasso will organize the move of all important classic works of the Prado museum in Madrid to safer Valencia. The artist had spent so much time in his youth in the Prado, it had become his second home. During that same Spanish civil war, Hitler, being Franco’s ally, bombs the bask village of Gernika to test his air force in preparation of the second world war. Deeply touched and inspired by this massacre Picasso presents in 1937 “Guernica” in Paris’ world expo. From the moment the enormous canvas was first seen, it excited admiration, dislike, astonishment and controversy. It must said that, during the Paris expo, the Spanish pavilion was set up as an outcry against upcoming fascism and a warning for Europe that democracy was at stake, due to Franco and his dictatorial friends.
An impressive list of artists, such as Miro, Bunuel and the by Franco recently assassinated poet Garcia Lorca presented their work. Small replicas were sold at the entrance of the pavilion to raise funds for the republican cause. Remarkable was the contribution of Hemingway together with Dutch filmer Joris Ivens. They presented a documentary that shows the peaceful daily life of a Spanish rural village,… suddenly attacked by Franco’s fascists. Families are brutally separated, every night less villagers come back home. Entitled: “Spanish Earth”, this document is a unique reflection of republican resistance and shows the drama and injustices of war. Orson Welles, enlisted to record the commentary, wanted to change some of the lines which he thought sounded unduly pompous. At a viewing of the film, described by Welles in “Cahiers du Cinema”, he and Hemingway got into huge arguing, going at each other with chairs and fists, as the armies fought it out on the screen in front of them. The two American heavyweights were reconciled over a bottle of whiskey, and though Welles still gets the credit in some of the early prints, it is Hemingway’s flat, harsh monotone that accompanies the film. Hemingway took the republican cause so personal, that after the Paris expo, he organised parties and lectures in Hollywood to raise funds for the Republic.
The official German guidebook to the world expo incorporated Hitler’s recent pronouncements on modern art with the suggestion that visitors should pass by the pavilion of “Red” Spain. He describes “Guernica” as the dream of a madman, a melee of broken bodies, probably the work of a four year old child. After 3 years of civil war, Franco becomes Head of State and Spain slides into 40 years of misery and dictatorship, paralysing the development of the Spanish socio-cultural life. Picasso prohibited in 1939 the exposure of Guernica in Spain while Franco is alive, saddling up the general with his first important cultural embargo. Many left wing intellectuals and artist fled and develop their careers in neighbouring countries, later followed by millions of Spanish emigrants, escaping poverty and censorship. The train connection between Paris and Madrid was for years a symbol of this emigration with too many stories of split up families, lovers and friends. Today Manu Chau and lots of other musicians embody these migrations in their music.
So at the end of 1939, at the outburst of World War II Picasso sends “Guernica” to the U.S., where it will tour the country during the beginning of the forties, and soon obtain a tremendous impact as it was perceived as a sign of alarm for what was happening in Europe. In its bulletin of October 1942 the New York Moma museum announced: “This is art that Hitler hates because it is modern, progressive, challenging; because it is international, leading to understanding and tolerance among nations; because it is free, the free expression of free men”. Meanwhile back in Paris, Picasso’s studio is frequently controlled by the Nazi’s, who suspected him for collaboration with the Jews. On one of these searches, a German officer had recognized a print of “Guernica”, pinned to the wall and asked him: “Did you do that?” Picasso coldly replied: “No, you did”.
With the liberation of Paris in 1945 Picasso becomes universally known. Far more than a great painter, he turns into a popular symbol of liberty and an emblem of intellectual resistance against fascism. His studio becomes literally the centre of a cultural pilgrimage. The artist joked to a friend: “Paris is liberated, but me, I was and remain besieged”. When critics asked him why, between the horror and anger in the “Guernica” painting, the white dove appears, he answers, fed up with questions on symbolism behind his oeuvre: “I think it is a chicken”. Despite the artists’ cynicism, this dove of peace became a world wide symbol for the communist party and for peace in general.
In Spain in the fifties and sixties, contraband copies of Guernica hung above many Spanish dining tables as a memorial to the lives and hopes that were destroyed in the civil war. When the feared Guardia Civil searched houses, they would automatically tear down the copy and people even risked jail. In the late sixties Guernica becomes a favourite backdrop for anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and Picasso receives hundreds of letters of American artists who suggest that because of U.S. atrocities in Asia, he ought to take Guernica home. Picasso refused because he still wouldn’t trust general Franco, and unfortunately Franco will outlive the artist. When after Franco’s dead, negotiations between the Moma museum and new Spanish government began, the question raised where Guernica would be exposed?
The Basks were convinced it should come back to Gernika or nearby Bilbao, Catalans wanted it for its Picasso museum, Malaga because it was his place of birth and Madrid said it should reside in the Prado. After intense political discussions and national polls, it was the capital Madrid that won this dramatic political battle. Most probably, due to this polemic, Bilbao would obtain years later the contract for the installation of The Guggenheim. Guernica touches Spanish soil for the first time in 1981 with the minister of culture emotionally stating: “Finally, the last refugee is back”.
Dali, on the contrary, openly supported Franco’s regime, even more by painting Franco’s granddaughter as a personal present for the family .Dali and Picasso had met in Paris in the early twenties, Picasso would later say: He was like a son to me, a shame “circumstances” have separated us. Drawing a portrait of Picasso, Dali goes into direct confrontation, signing it with: “Picasso is a communist, me neither…”. He will repeat this slogan in a lecture in Madrid in 1951. When Picasso hears about this he responds: “Absolutely genius”. Although his artistic respect, Picasso would refuse to meet again an insisting Dali, who would then send all kind of strange postcards to Picasso’s home in the south of France. Strangely enough, once democracy installed, Dali was never asked for his support of general Franco’s regime, covering himself with the status of a living myth. Picasso was called “The bullfighter of painting” because the bull and the horse, classic figures of the “corrida” are present in all of his artistic outings. Lorca had described the bullfights as a direct and courageous confrontation with dead that the human spirit truly could soar, and in which great art could be born,….el duende.
In the thirties a minotaur, half man and half bull ,began to inhabit Picasso’s work. This creature seemed to fuse for the artist the base with the divine, the spiritual with the erotic and perhaps even love with hate. To bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin, who was a close friend of Picasso, the painter once said: If it wasn’t for Franco, I would be your tour manager and follow you to all the corridas. This friendship was sealed with the publication of a book: “Bulls and Bullfighters”, a compilation of paintings and personal stories. At the end of the fifties, with sold out arenas everywhere, Dominguin was the biggest rival of Antonio Ordonez, founder of the famous Goyescas in Ronda Their confrontations were written down by Hemingway for the American magazine, Life, one of the most important magazines of those times. Unfortunately Picasso could not be present on these legendary afternoons, but witnesses tell that at the age of 92, just before dying in 1973, Picasso was seen passionately fighting an invisible bull with his bath towel, intensively shouting Ole, Ole, Ole…
His close friend Miro, will make a Picasso homage, in form of a public stamp, at the celebration of his centenary in 1981. Thousands of Spaniards will seal their cards and letters with this stamp, exploring again, freedom of speech in a new democracy, something both artist fought for since the Paris expo in 1937.
Twenty years after the publishing of this stamp in 2001, a giant work of Miro, that adorned the entrance of the New York Twin Towers, came down with the destruction of the towers, sadly remembering the warning the artist launched more than sixty years before. Fellow Picasso had told us: “Wars start and end, but hostilities endure.”