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Patricia Hayes, an appreciation

9 January 2010

Undated news photo reprinted on Circle of Sand (

Patricia Hayes (in the dark clothes) — Patricia Hayes Franklin now — was transferred to a hospice in Odessa Texas this morning.  Our thoughts are with Pat Hayes, and our sympathies go out to her family at this difficult time.

Patricia Hayes was one of the “right” kind of expats… not one who sought to recreate a north of the border life in Mexico, but who came to Mexico to create a Mexican identity, and who — despite the obstacles and bumps in the road — had a life few can imagine.

Perhaps, like some of us, she came to “escape from the ordinary” (and she certainly did that) and a future life of quiet desperation.  But,  unlike so many of us,  her seemingly whimsical decision to move to Mexico was a clear-eyed decision to embrace the uncertainties and even dangers of the choice to change one’s culture, one’s norms, one’s country.

A perfectly “normal” San Angelo Texas blond, Hayes — then a music student at North Texas State University — was visiting relations in Del Rio when, on a lazy Sunday afternoon in 1953, crossed into Ciudad Acuña and saw her first bull fight. She came, she saw… she wanted to conquer.  The bull ring is a place of esthetics and athletics, a physical and violent art — to the spectator perhaps a brutal spectacle meant to give an object lesson on life and mortality.  If it is an incomplete art, then it is all the more valuable for that.  As Rainer Maria Rilke wrote of the broken, “Archaic Torso of Apollo“,  to observe, and to observe closely, the incomplete and imperfect relics of perfection tells us one thing:  “… here there is no place that does not see you./ You must change your life”.

Change her life is exactly what Pat Hayes did.  Now available only in cache, Linda Tarin wrote for  the Spring 1992 “Borderlands” (El Paso Community College’s excellent border history publication), of Pat’s decision to move to Mexico:

… El Pasoan Bill C. Hayes laughs when he remembers the family’s reaction to his sister’s announcement about becoming a bullfighter.

Everyone lived in different parts of Texas, and no one wanted her to do it . “I’ll tell you, the wires were hot,” he exclaimed. When she was in Mexico, the family tried everything, even not sending her money, to get her to quit.

But they weren’t able to get her to change her mind and decided they had no choice but to back her up. Franklin credits her father, John H. Hayes, with having been the most supportive and confident in her abilities as a bullfighter.

Knowing almost no Spanish, Hayes convinced a travel agent to arrange for her to meet trainers.  As a novillero (or, in her case, novillera) she was accepted by her peers — the bullring having always been open to women and minorities — but as a professional, she did have to overcome some sexism.  The issue was one that resonates in the United States today — she couldn’t get health insurance.

Bullfighting is a dangerous occupation, and the types of occupational injuries associated with the job are unique to it.  The matador’s union provided hospital coverage, but the policies were written assuming the members were men.  The union and Hayes finally reached a compromise — she was allowed to become a non-voting union member (and receive health coverage).  She’d need the insurance, sustaining “receive bumps, bruises, broken ribs and brain concussion”, but according to Linda Tarin, no gorings.  I had an e-mail from Hayes’ niece that does mention gorings, but have no confirmation on that.

In the United States, it’s assumed that her fame as a matadora was mostly as a “novelty act” — a good looking gringa blond, the “Grace Kelly of the Bullring”.  But,  she appeared in Mexico City’s Plaza de Toros… something akin to playing in the World Series in baseball, or Carnegie Hall for a pianist… as well as working in Ecuador and Portugal.   Still, she was a notable, but not great, tauromachean, and — never earning what she needed as well as the greater difficulties many women athletes over 30 have compared to men the same age with recovering from sports injuries, she retired from the ring in the mid 1960s.

Basically forgotten by the public, Hayes drifted into other careers, other adventures.  The e-mail I’ve had from her relation suggests there were tragedies, health problems, an unfortunate marriage… the things that can happen to us all.  But Pat Hayes, as a matadora, had no choice but to accept her life, with its limitations, tragedies, bumps, bruises and all… As the greatest — and most thoughtful of 20th century matadors, Silverio Perez ” (1915 – 2006), “El Faraón de Texcoco”, would write:

Only by becoming one with our fear, and the bull’s fear, and becoming one with our own mortality, are we alive.

Whatever else happened or will happen in her time on this planet, Pat Hayes was vitally and consciously alive — and that is something to celebrate. 

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Jo Anna Pope permalink
    13 January 2010 5:56 pm

    Patricia is my Aunt and I was wondering how you knew that Pat has been moved to Hospice. Thank you for the nice article. PLease respond to my above email.

  2. Alan Pope permalink
    14 January 2010 1:27 pm

    Patricia was my great aunt. Stories of her kind heart, courage and adventurous spirit (bull fighting) have been an inspiring badge of honor in our family and will be passed along for generations to come.

    Thank you for writing about her.

  3. Adele W. Waring permalink
    14 January 2010 10:26 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this article about my mom’s youngest sister, Pat.
    Patricia passed away midday today with loved ones by her side. Pat was a petite and soft-spoken beauty with amazing courage and artistic gifts, living ahead of her time in Western culture through exercising meditation and practicing Yoga, while sharing her faith and offering kindness to all in her life. She is remembered for her beauty, kind, loving, and independent spirit as well as her amazing courage through life as well as in the bull ring.
    I am sad to lose her but rich for the memories she has created for my family as well as her admirers.



    • Ron permalink
      31 March 2011 7:15 pm

      I met Patricia Hayes in 1999. I was enchanted by a beautiful framed image of her hanging on the wall of their home. Each time I visited, she shared her experiences as a Matadora. I was mesmerized by her charm and elegant beauty from that long past era.

      She trusted me to take several pictures to scan and make copies for her including that beautiful picture on the wall. As a token of her appreciation, she autographed a copy of that picture writing that it was the only autographed photo of her since her days as a Matadora. It remains one of my treasured photographic memorabilia.

      I am sorry to hear of her passing. I wish I could have known her in those younger years as her family knew her. Patricia Hayes was a lovely lady with a warm heart who lived a Great Adventure.

      • Adele Waring permalink
        9 April 2011 10:25 am

        Thank you, Ron, for posting your comment about my mom’s sis.

        I’m not sure to what picture you are referring, but thank you for helping Pat. Did you know her while her husband Richard was alive? Pat lived in Odessa for a while with my sister after her husband died in Temple, so I was wondering where you two were acquainted.

        I’d be interested in having a scanned copy for my mom. Richard Grabman can give you my email.



      • Daniel Franklin permalink
        4 June 2011 8:51 am

        Richard Franklin was my grandfather, but I never knew him. I would love to hear more about him if you thare is anyway we could safely exchange emails I would love to talk. Thanks.

  4. yvonne permalink
    29 June 2018 11:48 pm

    My husband and I met patricia Hayes franklin when she lived in temple texas. She and her husband married us, as we had just moved to temple and knew no one. She and her husband were neighbors. Patricia was a very kind, giving person. A very beautiful person inside and out. She was intelligent, a very interesting person. We will always remember her.

  5. Sandra Hayes permalink
    1 July 2021 10:31 am

    Pat Franklin was my sister-in-law during my brief marriage to her brother, Billy Hayes. She had the most precious, angelic glow about her and when she spoke it was soft and melodic. I remember her matadora suiting on display in an El Paso hostel being lost in a fire. II was greatly saddened by her death.


  1. Patricia Hayes Franklin, D.E.P. « The Mex Files

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