Tag Archives: Bullfighting

Today in Texas History – July 28

From the Annals of the Toreros –   In 1908, Harper Lee of Ysleta made his first appearance as a novillero, or apprentice matador, in the Plaza de Guadalajara.   In 1895 Harper’s mother married Samuel M. Lee, a resident of Guadalajara. Harper joined the family there and enrolled in high school in 1899. He called himself Harper Baylor Lee even though he was never legally adopted. His amigos called him El Gringo Harper.  Lee showed early promise in bullfighting games.  He was invited to bull haciendas as was given the opportunity to test young fighting bulls and breeding cows.  He showed exceptional talent with the cape.  Under the tutelage of his friend Francisco Gómez, El Chiclanero, a retired matador from Spain, Lee decided to become a professional torero.  His initial appearance in Guadalajara launched a remarkable career in which he ultimately became the first North American to be acknowledged as a full-fledged matador de toros.  His career was cut short by the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution but he appeared in 52 corridas and  dispatched 100 bulls.  He “cut the pigtail” in the formal ceremony of retirement on December 3, 1911.

Today in Texas History – July 28

From the Annals of the Toreros – In 1908, James Harper Gillett made his first appearance as a novillero  at Plaza de Toros in  Guadalajara. Gillett was born in Ysleta in 1884. His parents divorced in 1889, after which he had no contact with his father for twenty-four years.  His mother married Guadalajara resident Samuel M. Lee in 1895. The family lived in Guadalajara and Gillett began calling himself Harper Baylor Lee.  Lee learned the art from his friend Francisco Gómez, El Chiclanero, a retired matador from Spain.  Lee determined to see if he could make it as a as a professional torero. In 1910 he became the first American to attain the rank of matador de toros.  He appeared in fifty-two corridas and killed 100 bulls. His career was cut short by the chaos of the Mexican Revolution. After reconciling with his father in 1914, he changed his name to Harper Baylor Gillett.