“A man does not belong to the place he was born in, but to the place he chooses to die.”
We would like to unravel all the mysteries surrounding places like Ronda, but maybe, if we really knew them, they would no longer be so entrancing.
We love to talk about travellers who, for some reason or another, have gone down in history. This is because, thanks to them, we reach an important conclusion; there is something secret about Ronda that makes it fascinating. However, this fascination does not stem from the fact that we were born here, but from the fact that its appeal has proven international and timeless.
Orson Welles’ ultimate travel to Ronda was made on May 8th 1987, almost two years after his death. His ashes were brought here to dwell forever in a well located in the “Recreo de San Cayetano”, a piece of land belonging to the Ordóñez family. His ashes travelled from California in an urn protected by a wooden chest inside a blue sack.
It had already been 50 years since the film-maker, scriptwriter and actor set foot in Spain for the first time. He was only 17 years old and spent four months in Triana, the renowned Sevillian quarter. He took part in amateur bullfights, sharing the bullring with the actor José Nieto. Back then, he was a tall, slim, young man, lacking the heftiness he would later develop due to the passing of time and lavish meals.
Just like Hemingway, young Welles sided with the Spanish republican faction during the Civil War, using the communication weapon he knew only too well; the radio. In his radio programme, “El Tiempo Marcha”, he tried to raise awareness among intellectuals and to convince people to join the International Brigades. Both artists happened to meet during the summer of 1937 because of the dubbing of “Tierra de España” (“The Spanish Earth”), a film written by John Dos Passos and Hemingway himself. The director decided to hire Orson Welles to narrate the film. However, the final result was cause for such controversy that Hemingway and Welles ended up in a brawl which was ended by a timely bottle of whisky.
Bullfighting and film-making were the main interests that brought Welles to Spain. Mind you, women may have also had something to do. In fact, he fell head over heels in love with the daughter of a Sevillian male dancer. This beautiful woman, who Welles first saw on the cover of “Life” magazine, was called Margarita Carmen Cansino, better known as Rita Hayworth, who he would later marry.
Bullfighting, which Welles described as “a unjustifiable yet irresistible, three-act tragedy”, led him to visit the bullrings regularly, especially between 1956 and 1961. With his typical cigar and from behind the barriers, he would record the performances of many bullfighters, like Antonio Ordóñez. These films would later be edited as documentaries by international broadcasters such as the RAI (Italy), the BBC (the UK) or the ABC (the US).
Miguel Martín photographed Welles at the gate of Ronda’s Real Maestranza de Caballería (Royal School of Cavalry), beside Antonio Ordóñez and Julio Aparicio. In this picture, taken during the Goyesca’s bullfight on September 9th 1964, his appearance resembles that of a strong, tall cowboy, very much like John Wayne in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”.