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Female Bullfighter

Airdate: February 9, 2017
Carmen Bermudez has lived a life worthy of a Hollywood script. She was born to a poor family in Costa Rica, and told her mother early on she wanted to become a bullfighter to escape poverty. She eventually reached her goal, and later in life her path led her to a career in finance. Bermudez also served as a Republican delegate from Arizona in 2004. Bermudez tells her story to Arizona Horizon host Ted Simons.

Guests:
  • Carmen Bermudez - Founder and CEO for Mission Management & Trust Co.
Category: Culture

Keywords: bullfighter, finance, Carmen Bermudez,

View Transcript

TED SIMONS: COMING UP ON ARIZONA HORIZON WE'LL TALK TO A REMARKABLE WOMAN WHO MOVED FROM THE BULLFIGHTING RING, TO HIGH-FINANCE, TO LEADING THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIENCE AT A NATIONAL POLITICAL CONVENTION.
TED SIMONS: CARMEN BERMUDEZ HAS LIVED QUITE A LIFE. SHE WAS BORN IN COSTA RICA AND BECAME A BULLFIGHTER TO ESCAPE POVERTY. LATER IN LIFE SHE HAD A SUCCESFUL CAREER IN FINANCE AND GOT INVOLVED IN SOUTHERN ARIZONA POLITICS. WE RECENTLY SPOKE WITH CARMEN BERMUDEZ, AND ASKED HER HOW SHE FIRST GOT INVOLVED WITH BULLFIGHTING.
TED SIMONS: WHEN YOU WERE A CHILD, WHO DID YOU SEE YOURSELF AS WHEN YOU WERE A KID GROWING UP IN THE JUNGLES IN COSTA RICA?

BERMUDEZ: THE ONLY THING I WANTED TO DO WHEN I WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD WAS BE A BULLFIGHTER.

TED SIMONS: WHY?

BERMUDEZ: I WAS TIRED OF BEING POOR AND BULLFIGHTERS WERE RICH AND FAMOUS. SO MY MOTHER TOLD ME JUMP INTO FENCE AND SEE WHAT YOU FEEL LIKE. THERE WAS A BUNCH OF COWS IN THERE AND ONE FOLLOWED ME AND I RAN. I WAS SO SCARED. BUT AFTER I JUMPED OVER THE FENCE I FOUND AN EXUBERANT FEELING THAT NEVER WENT AWAY. YOU KNOW, FEAR IS GOOD. FEAR IS LIKE AMBITION. SO THAT SEED STAYED IN ME THAT I HAD TO FIGHT BULLS. IT WAS A MUST. AND SO THAT IS WHY I WENT BACK IN THE RING AFTER I HELPED MY MOTHER WITH HER LIFE.

TED SIMONS: WELL, BEFORE WE GET BACK TO THAT I WANT TO GET BACK TO THE IDEA AT SEVEN YEARS OLD YOU FIGURED OUT YOU WERE POOR. YOU GUYS WERE. NO RUNNING WATER. YOU PICKED COFFEE BEANS IN THE FIELD. I MEAN, YOU WERE POOR AT SEVEN YEARS OF AGE IS THAT WHEN IT HIT YOU WE CAN DO BETTER?

BERMUDEZ: YES, BECAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT POOR IS WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW YOUR NEXT MEAL IS GOING TO BE. I HAD TO CLIMB TREES TO EAT FRUIT. THERE WAS NO FOOD. THERE WAS NO REFRIGERATOR. THERE WAS NO SUPERMARKETS. IT WAS WHAT WAS IN THE FIELDS THAT YOU COULD EAT. I WANTED TO HAVE AS MUCH FOOD AS POSSIBLE AND ALSO TO HELP MY MOTHER FEED HER CHILDREN, OTHER CHILDREN TOO.

TED SIMONS: YES. YOU WENT TO CALIFORNIA. TALK TO US ABOUT THAT. AT THE AGE OF 15?
BERMUDEZ:YES, I WAS 15 AND A HALF. MY MOTHER AND I CAME ALONE BECAUSE MY MOTHER DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY FOR MY SIBLINGS TO COME WITH HER. SHE TOOK ME OUT OF SCHOOL AND I CAME WITH HER AND WE BOTH WORKED IN MANY JOBS. WHATEVER WE HAD TO DO 24/7 SO THAT WE RAISED ENOUGH MONEY SO SHE COULD BRING MY TWO BROTHERS AND MY SISTER. AT THE END OF YEAR AND HALF SHE GAVE ME $54 AND YOU KNOW WHAT I DID WITH THAT MONEY?
TED SIMONS: WHAT’S THAT?

BERMUDEZ: I BOUGHT A TYPEWRITER. I WANTED TO BETTER MYSELF. I WANTED TO HAVE JOBS WHERE I COULD JUST SIT ON THE DESK AND TYPE.

TED SIMONS: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BULLFIGHTING DREAM? WHEN YOU GOT TO CALIFORNIA, DID YOU SAY WEEK REALLY GET INTO RING? HOW DID THAT WORK?

BERMUDEZ: OKAY. AFTER MY MOTHER RAISED ENOUGH MONEY AND I COULD GO BACK TO SCHOOL, IN MY SANTA MONICA HIGH SCHOOL EVERYTHING WAS ABOUT BULLFIGHTING. A FRIEND OF MINE PUT ME IN TOUCH WITH A MAN FROM SPAIN THAT WAS TEACHING BULLFIGHTING TO MOVIE STARS LIKE RICKY NELSON AND OTHERS AND HE LIVED IN BRENWOOD. HE DIDN'T CHARGE ME. I WOULD TAKE THE BUS EVERY SATURDAY AND HE WOULD TEACH ME ALL THE TECHNICAL THINGS ABOUT BULLFIGHTING. SO I KEPT THAT PROMISE WITH MYSELF AND AT THE SAME TIME HELPING MY MOTHER. SO AFTERWARDS, I GOT A JOB AND RAISED ENOUGH MONEY AND I WENT BACK TO COSTA RICA.

TED SIMONS: YOU WENT BACK TO COSTA RICA SPECIFCIALLY TO BULLFIGHT? MY GOODNESS WHAT DID THEY THINK OF YOU WHEN YOU GOT THERE?

BERMUDEZ: CRAZY. BECAUSE THERE WERE NO WOMEN BULLFIGHTERS IN LATIN AMERICA, WELL CHILE THERE WAS A WOMAN, VERY VERY FAMOUS, SHE FOUGHT ON HORSEBACK. I WANTED TO BULLFIGHT BECAUSE I NEEDED IT. IT WAS A CALL. SO I STARTED BULLFIGHTING FOR FREE. I WENT TO A RESTAURANT AND THEY HAD A BULL RING AND I SAID THROW ME WHATEVER YOU HAVE. SOMETIMES THERE WERE COWS THAT WOULD RUNAWAY FROM ME. AND OTHERS THAT CHARGED. AND THEN SOME COWS TO CALVES. AND I WAS ABLE TO BUILD A NAME. SINCE I DIDNT HAVE A TELEPHONE I WOULD LOOK AT THE NEWSPAPER AND SEE WHERE I HAD TO FIGHT FOR FREE. SO THAT IS HOW I STARTED GETTING MY NAME IN THE NEWSPAPER. I SAID I HAVE TO PURSUE MY CAREER AND I RAISED -- I WAS WORKING DURING THE WEEK AND SO I RAISED ENOUGH MONEY TO HAVE A ONE-WAY TICKET TO UNITED STATES WITH SIX DAYS IN MEXICO CITY INCLUDED A HOTEL. I STAYED FIVE YEARS.

TED SIMONS: AND YOU GOT TO BE PRETTY WELL KNOWN AS A BULLFIGHTER, DIDN'T YOU? DID YOU APPEAR ON THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW?

BREMUDEZ: YES, THEY PAID ME. SEVERAL DIFFERENT SHOWS PAID ME TO FLY TO UNITED STATES TO APPEAR ON THE SHOW AND TALK ABOUT BULLFIGHTING. HOW DOES FEEL TO BE A WOMAN FIGHTING A BULL, AND I THOUGHT HOW RIDICULOUS JUST BECAUSE I'M A WOMAN? THE BULL DOESN'T KNOW IF I AM A WOMAN OR MAN.

TED SIMONS: DID THE OTHER BULLFIGHTERS EVENTUALLY EXCEPT YOU OR IS THERE ALWAYS A LITTLE SOMETHING GOING ON?

BERMUDEZ: YOU GOT IT. MEN DON'T LIKE TO FIGHT WITH A WOMAN IN THE SAME CARTEL BECAUSE THEY FEEL THEY HAVE TO DO BETTER BECAUSE, OH, YOU FIGHT LIKE A WOMAN. IT IS DEMEANING WHEN A MAN IS TOLD THAT. MEN DON'T WANT TO FEEL -- BECAUSE WHAT KIND OF BULL YOU GET IS THE DRAW OF THE LUCK. YOU COULD GET A GOOD BULL OR A BAD BULL. IF I GET A GOOD BULL AND THE MAN GETS THE BAD BULL IT IS HIS FAULT. SO HE HAS TO TAKE MORE CHANCES IN ORDER TO DO WELL. IF HE IS FIGHTING WITH ANOTHER MAN AND GETS A BAD BULL WELL IT IS A BAD BULL. SO IT IS VERY, VERY -- WHAT DO YOU CALL IT? MALE-ORIENTED BUSINESS.

TED SIMONS: DID THE CROWDS BOO OR WHISTLE OR WHAT?

BERMUDEZ: I DON'T KNOW.

TED SIMONS: YOU DIDN'T PAY ATTENTION TO THE CROWDS?

BERMUDEZ: I WAS ALWAYS WELCOME. THEY PAID. I DREW MORE PEOPLE BECAUSE I WAS A WOMAN AND THEY WANTED TO SEE WHAT A WOMAN COULD DO.

TED SIMONS: DID YOU EVER GET HURT IN THERE?

BERMUDEZ: I GOT HURT BUT I DIDN'T GET PENETRATED BY A HORN INTO MY SKIN BUT I DID GET HURT SEVERAL TIMES AND IT WAS MY FAULT. NOT THE BULL'S FAULT.

TED SIMONS: YOU GO FROM BULLFIGHTING TO FINANCIAL PLANNING. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

BERMUDEZ: NOT FINANCIAL PLANNING. I DON'T DO THAT. MY COMPANY IS A TRUST COMPANY. WE DON'T DO FINANCIAL PLANNING.

TED SIMONS: BUT YOU WENT FROM BULLFIGHTING TO FINANCE. AGAIN, HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

BERMUDEZ: BEFORE THAT I SPENT 18 YEARS WITH THE AIRLINES FIRST AS A FLIGHT ATTENDANT AND THAN I BECAME A PURSER AND THEN IN-FLIGHT SERVICE MANAGER. I WAS IN CHARGE OF THE WHOLE PLANE, 747, 7-11, AND TRYING TRIPS FROM LOS ANGELES TO PARIS. YOU BEGIN TO MANAGE A LOT. YOU MANAGE PASSENGERS, YOU MANAGE CREW, YOU MANAGE PILOTS, ETC. I WAS VERY GOOD IN MANAGING THAT KIND OF BUSINESS. SO WHEN I MET MY HUSBAND ON A FLIGHT. I CALL IT I MET HIM IN HEAVEN. HE WAS MONEY MANAGER. SO I MARRY HIM AND THEN I DIDN'T WANT TO QUIT MY JOB IN THE AIRLINE INDUSTRY BECAUSE I LOVED IT BUT EVENTUALLY I RETIRED. I DIDN'T QUIT I RETIRED AND WENT TO WORK FOR HIS BUSINESS IN LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA AS MANAGEMENT. AND THEN I WANTED TO START MY OWN BUSINESS.

TED SIMONS: CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG, BUT YOU BECAME THE FIRST MINORITY OWNED TRUST COMPANY IN THE UNITED STATES? WAS IT LIKE BULL FIGHTING? DID ALL THE MEN KIND OF LOOK AT YOU AND GO MM?

BERMUDEZ: IT IS ANOTHER BUSINESS THAT IS MALE-ORIENTED. ESPECIALLY BEING A WOMAN AND ON TOP OF THAT I AM A MINORITY WOMEN, A HISPANIC WOMAN. SO, THAT GAVE ME MORE OF A THIRLL. INTERESTING ENOUGH, WOMEN DON'T WANT TO DO BUSINESS WITH WOMEN BECAUSE OTHER WOMEN THOUGHT WOMEN DON'T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT FINANCES SO THEY WANTED TO GO TO A MAN. IT WAS BOTH WAYS. IT’S A SWORD WITH TWO SHARP EDGES.

TED SIMONS: DID THAT SURPRISE YOU WOMEN WERE HESITANT?

BERMUDEZ: VERY MUCH. BUT TODAY IN THE INDUSTRY WOMEN ARE BEGINNING TO REALIZE, AND MEN, JUS LIKE THEY GO TO FEMALE DOCTORS MEN ARE BEGINNING TO GO TO WOMEN THAT HANDLE THEIR PORTFOLIOS BECAUSE THEY HAVE THE PATIENCE AND DETAIL TO SERVICE THEM.

TED SIMONS: AND IF YOU THREATEN THEM WITH A BULL THEY DON'T CARE. BUT YOU HAVE LIVED FOR OVER 20 YEARS IN TUCSON. COSTA RICA, CALIFORNIA, ALL OVER THE -- WHY TUCSON?

BERMUDEZ: IT IS INTERESTING. I WANTED TO OPEN MY COMPANY WHEN WE WERE IN LA JOLLA BUT IT HAD TAKEN ME FIVE YEARS TO GET A LICENSE. WHAT I DID, I DON'T KNOW NEED TO BE IN CALIFORNIA. THEY ARE NOT VERY BUSINESS FRIENDLY SO I LOOKED AT NEIGHBORING STATES LIKE NEVADA, NEW MEXICO AND ARIZONA. ARIZONA OPENED THEIR ARMS AND I CAME TO PHOENIX TO THE STATE BANKING DEPARTMENT AND THEY SAID WE DON'T HAVE A TRUST COMPANY IN TUCSON. I SAID MATTER OF FACT, IN 23 YEARS I HAVE BEEN THE ONLY TRUST COMPANY IN ARIZONA. INDEPENDENT TRUST COMPANY.

TED SIMONS: THAT IS SURPRISING. YOU WOULD THINK THERE IS MORE.

BERMUDEZ: IT IS OKAY

TED SIMONS: I GUESS IT IS OKAY FOR YOU, ISN'T IT? YOU EMBRACED THE COMMUNITY AND THE COMMUNITY EMBRACED YOU. YOU WERE A DELEGATE TO THE 2004 REPUBLICAN CONVENTION AND LED THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE? HOW WAS THAT?

BERMUDEZ: THAT WAS THE ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE. A FEELING YOU WILL NEVER FORGET COMING TO THIS COUNTRY AS AN IM IMMIGRANT, TO WORK HARD AND GIVE BACK TO THE COUNTRY BY OFFERING JOBS AND STARTING A COMPANY AND THEN TO HAVE THE PRIVILEGE AS A REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE TO BE -- CANDIDATE! EXCUSE ME. TO GIVE THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, WHAT AN HONOR. WHAT AN HONOR. THAT WAS THE FOR OPENING OF GEORGE W BUSH.

TED SIMONS: AS A REPUBLICAN AND REPUBLICAN DELEGATE IN 2004. YOU HAVE A REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT AFTER EIGHT YEARS IN THE HOUSE OF PRESIDENT OBAMA. LAST QUESTION. YOU ARE AN IMMIGRANT. PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS CERTAIN IDEAS REGARDING IMMIGRATION IN A VARIETY OF WAYS. HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?

BERMUDEZ: I BELIEVE THAT BY CLOSING THE GATES ON THE UNITED STATES AND NOT ALLOWING MORE IMMIGRANTS TO COME UNITED STATES WOULD SUFFER BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY JOBS HERE THAT AMERICANS DON'T WANT TO DO. AND WE SHOULD OPEN BRIDGES. WE SHOULD OPEN UP WAYS HOW THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS GOING TO CONTINUE GROWING. I DON'T BELIEVE YOUR CHILDREN WANT TO PICK UP TOMATOES AND LETTUCE IN THE FIELDS. THAT IS A JOB THAT HAS TO BE DONE. A MACHINE HAS NOT BEEN INVENTED YET TO DO THAT. I BELIEVE THAT HE IS DOING A MISSERVICE TO THIS COUNTRY.

TED SIMONS: DO YOU THINK YOUR STORY, IF HE HEARD YOUR STORY AND OTHERS HARDLINED ON IMMIGRATION, ESPECIALLY ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION BUT IMMIGRATION IN GENERAL IF THEY HEARD YOUR STORY THINK THEY MIGHT CHANGE YOUR MIND?

BERMUDEZ: NOT IF THEY HEARD MY STORY BECAUSE EVERYBODY HAS A POINT WHY DON'T YOU COME HERE LEGALLY LIKE I DID. BUT WHEN I APPLIED FOR A VISA TO HERE THEY WERE GIVING VISAS AWAY. NOW THEY ARE NOT. PEOPLE ARE DESPERATE TO COME HERE BECAUSE IF THEY STAY THERE THEY WILL LOSE THEIR LIFE. THEY HAVE A CHANCE TO COME HERE AND WORK FOR $5 OR $10 A DAY MORE THAN THEY COULD MAKE IN THEIR COUNTRIES. IF THERE WAS A WAY, AND I HAVE COME OUT WITH SOME IDEAS ON HOW WE CAN ACCOMPLISH THAT, BY HAVING AN AGENCY WHO WOULD BRING PEOPLE TO COME AND DO THE JOBS THAT AMERICANS DON'T WANT TO DO AND PAY THEM WHEN THEY TAKE THEM BACK TO THEIR COUNTRY.

TED SIMONS: I TELL YOU WHAT IF ANYONE CAN START AN AGENCY THAT CAN GET IT DONE I HAVE AN IDEA THAT A FORMER BULLFIGHTER WHO TO PUT IN CHARGE. YOU’VE LIVED A FASCINATING LIFE, CONGRATULATIONS ON ALL YOUR SUCCESS AND THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

BERMUDEZ: MY PLEASURE.

I AM AN URBAN GARDEN.

I HAVE AN EXPERTISE IN FINANCIAL HISTORY.

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TED SIMONS: FRIDAY ON ARIZONA HORIZON, IT'S THE JOURNALISTS' ROUNDTABLE. AN ARIZONA MOM IS DEPORTED AND BECOMES THE FOCUS OF THE NATIONAL DEBATE ON IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT. AND REPUBLICAN STATE LAWMAKERS FAST-TRACK AN EXPANDED SCHOOL- VOUCHER BILL. THE JOURNALISTS' ROUNDTABLE. IF YOU WANT TO WATCH ARIZONA "HORIZON" AGAIN OR SEE WHAT WE WILL DO IN THE FUTURE CHECK OUT AZPBS.ORG/HORIZON. I AM TED SIMONS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING. ARIZONA "HORIZON" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS. MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION. THANK YOU.