A statue commemorating a beloved stray dog who was adopted by the entire neighborhood where he lived.
On January 16, 2023, the Madrid City Council paid a well-deserved tribute to an unexpected inhabitant of the city whose memory inspired popular books, verses and popular songs.
Paco was a simple dog without a pedigree, a poor stray mutt who has now been immortalized in bronze at one of those streets he used to frequent. In the 1880s, he became famous for frequenting cafes, theaters, bullfights and other events attended by Madrid society.
It all started on October 4, 1879. Perhaps driven by hunger, Paco went to the renowned Café de Fornos, where the intelligent dog offered his repertoire of capers and pirouettes, in search of the leftovers that were sometimes offered by the customers. It was there that he met Gonzalo de Saavedra, the Marquis of Bogaraya who became Mayor of Madrid. The nobleman threw the performing pup a piece of roast meat, a real delicacy. The two soon became close companions.
Don Gonzalo gave him the name “Paco,” a Spanish diminutive of Francisco, because that day was the feast of Francis of Assisi. Once their friendship was established, whether he was alone or in the company of the Marquis the doors of the most distinguished Madrid and its intellectual circles were opened to Paco, from cafés and restaurants to theaters. Paco watched plays from the aisle—some claimed that he would nod politely, but when the performance was not to his taste, he grunted. That was the signal in which the public began to boo, whistle and kick, all with the incessant barking of this peculiar pet.
But the greatest enjoyment for the dog was bullfighting. The press of those days abounded in chronicles about Paco’s activity in bulls spectacles, where he was seen observing the events with great interest but as soon as his critical sense developed and the bullfighters were not skilled he jumped into the ring and faced the bulls which delighted the attendees. But this beloved activity would eventually lead to his death.
In the summer of 1882, Paco jumped into the bullring and unintentionally caused the fall of the bullfighter known as Pepe el Galápagos. Angered and ashamed, the clumsy bullfighter stuck his rapier between Paco’s ribs, ending his life. The audience was furious, and almost killed the matador.
Paco’s body was embalmed and buried in an unknown place in El Retiro Park. The most famous dog in Madrid has been honored in this work by the sculptor Rodrigo Romero. Next to his legs, you can read the inscription: “To the dog Paco: genuine and unique dog of the local history of Madrid, friend of writers, artists, and personalities of the late 19th century.”
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