For some, bull riding is a way of risking one’s life. For others, it is the ultimate demonstration of the bravery and skill of riders who can dominate the beast. But for many, riding is simply in the blood of the majority of Guanacastecans.
That is the case of former bull rider Isaac Lopez Alfaro, a Nicoyan, who says that his attraction to the sport is written in his DNA. However, he accepts the fact that those who ride have to live with the consequences and occupational hazards.
Lopez is better known by his nickname MacGyver— just like the TV character, he has been inventing and repairing all kinds of things since his childhood. At 57 years old, he remembers what was his passion for more than 20 years, and what almost cost him his left leg and made him reflect on the value of life.
MacGyver learned to ride when he was 13 years old, without the knowledge of his parents, in a field behind his house in the San Martin neighborhood. Although the calf threw him off during his first attempt, the riding “bug” had bitten him. That was how Lopez began his career riding bulls, which would include “El Matasiete” (The Bully) and “El Mapa” (The Map), among others in Nicoya, Esparza, Santa Cruz and any place there was a fiesta.
Although MacGyver’s success was growing more each time, life had other plans for the Nicoyan. In 1992, he faced the most difficult ride of his life on “El Dentista” (The Dentist), as part of the fiestas of the Virgin of Guadalupe held in front of the new church in Nicoya.
The animal belonged to Misael Rojas, and Lopez remembers the event as if it were yesterday. “It was a local bull that weighed 500 kilograms (1100 pounds); it was white and very spirited and didn’t allow people to climb on top,” he recalled. “They called him The Dentist because he had already broken the mouth of several [riders],” said Lopez. Although he didn’t have any problems with his teeth, when he dismounted, the animal kicked Lopez’s left leg and nearly broke it completely.
“He ruined my leg; he broke my fibula in seven pieces and left my tibia exposed,” affirmed Lopez, who had to be taken to the emergency room at La Anexion Hospital and then to Mexico Hospital in San Jose, where he underwent three operations.
Currently, though MacGyver has a deformed tibia, he is able to walk thanks to seven screws that hold his leg together. After a year in the hospital, Isaac Lopez reflected on the value of life and the changes he had to make. “My mom gave me a Bible and I started to study it. I realized that I was very mistaken and that I had to give up my vices and straighten up,” he said.
From that moment on, he left bull riding and decided to “stick” to life – as riders say – with the trade he had learned as a child: repairing shoes.
Today, Lopez is the owner of the MacGyver Shoe Repair Shop, located in the Calderon Fournier neighborhood in Nicoya, where he repairs all kinds of shoes. In addition, he recently decided to get training through a course offered by the Mixed Institute for Social Assistance (IMAS – Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social), called Productive Ideas, to learn about business management and receive financial assistance to buy leather and other materials he needs to make repairs.
Isaac Lopez describes his experience as a “sad adventure” and respects the decision of those who want to dedicate themselves to riding bulls. But he recommends that young people “[should] not do it. They are going to waste their youth on a very dangerous sport.”
Those looking to replace their heelsor soles or repair a purse can contact him at 5706-7696.