Image: Peruvian matador Conchita Cintron
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Conchita Cintron was famous for her bullfighting skills on foot and on horseback. She reportedly killed more than 750 bulls during her career.
updated 2/18/2009 2:48:10 PM ET 2009-02-18T19:48:10

Conchita Cintron, who broke into the male-dominated sport of bullfighting at age 13 and became one of the world's first famous woman matadors, has died. She was 86.

Cintron, a Peruvian who became known as "La Diosa Rubia," or "The Blonde Goddess," died of a heart attack in Lisbon on Tuesday, the Portuguese news agency Lusa said, quoting unidentified family members. She was buried on the outskirts of the city on Wednesday, a funeral agency and a local church said.

Famous for her bullfighting skills on foot and on horseback, Cintron reportedly killed more than 750 bulls during her career in Europe, Central America and South America.

"She made an indelible mark on a period of bullfighting history," Hugo Ferro of the Portuguese Bullfighters' Union said in an interview on Wednesday.

"She was probably the best-known woman bullfighter," he said.

Born in 1922 as Concepcion Cintron Verrill, daughter of a Puerto Rican father and an American mother, she faced her first bull at 13 and made her debut in 1937 at the main arena in Lima, Peru.

During the 1940s, Cintron became one of the most famous women in bullfighting at a time when few females became matadors, whose job it was to maneuver around the animal at close range, then stab it to death with a sword.

"She wasn't the first woman, but she kept going season after season and made a name for herself," Ferro said.

High drama in Guadalajara
Cintron was seriously injured in 1949 in Guadalajara, Mexico, when a bull gored her in the thigh.

Carried to the ring's infirmary, she pulled away from doctors, returned to the ring and killed the bull. She then fell unconscious and was rushed into emergency surgery.

That same year in Spain, where a law prohibited women bullfighters from dismounting their horse and fighting on foot, she simulated the kill by touching the bull on the shoulders — where the sword would go — as it passed her, drawing cheers from the crowd.

She fought in more than 400 events in Portugal, Spain and several South American countries before retiring in 1949.

Cintron learned bullfighting with Ruy Zarco da Camara, a Portuguese who ran a riding school in Lima.

He taught her the Portuguese form of bullfighting on horseback. After fighting in Spain she made her debut in Portugal in 1945.

She retired at age 27 and married Francisco de Castelo Branco, a Portuguese. Cintron was survived by a son.

A funeral Mass was celebrated for Cintron on Wednesday, and she was buried in a cemetery in Trajouce, near Lisbon.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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