April 7, 2006

Bullfight World
By Lyn Sherwood

Is This The Future of Mexican Bullfighting?

Spanish Novillero Paco Riquelme, the Only One Worth Watching

It is said that to see what bullfighting will be, tomorrow, one should examine the up- and-coming novilleros of today. But, if that which I saw, April 2, in Nuevo Laredo, was an indication of the future of La Fiesta Brava Mexicana, then this aficionado declines to participate, thank you.

This was “X” Bullfighting, something akin to professional wrestling, drive-by shootings, and low-rider automobiles that bounce up and down. With only one exception, it was a day of total disgrace, a black mark on bullfighting that will be difficult for the administration of the very pretty Plaza Lauro Luis Longoria to overcome.

It was a total farce and a waste of a fine herd of novillos from Rosas Viejas. But, the crowd was delighted. Go figure.

Heading the card was Spanish novillero Paco Ri-quelme, with Mexicans Jorge Deljorge and Antonio Garcia. It was like watching Barishnikov compete with court jesters.

With his first bull, a large black that presented an abundance of complications, Riquelme—who was making his return after suffering the fracture of his right wrist—gave a proper, albeit unsuccessful, lídia.

His work with the muleta offered several flashes of his stylish toreo, but in all, it was a faena de aliño, completed with avisos and two descabello thrusts.

But, Paco’s second novillo, a good looking castaño that was exceptionally brave and noble, but lacking in strength, Riquelme offered a demonstration of purely classical toreo, erect, quiet, courageous, and appropriate, while the uncomprehending crowd sat on its hands. Unfortunately, the torito ran out of gas, quickly, and Riquelme was forced to terminate his faena, just as it seemed to be getting started. One, ¾ sword brought the performance to a close, and the animal died as it had performed, with its mouth closed.

Riquelme deserved consideration for an ear, or at least a vuelta. But, he wasn’t even afforded saludos or applause. The crowd just didn’t understand that which they had witnessed was an example of dignified toreo, filled with respect for the animal and personal integrity.

The next two novilleros were suicidal maniacs, and the crowd ate up their asinine performances that only barely resembled genuine toreo.

Jorge Deljorge, at least, demonstrated a degree of angel that could translate to a decent future. But, he lacks proper escuela. He’s an accident, looking for someplace to happen.

He opened with a series of faroles de rodillas, followed by some decent, albeit rather frenetic, capotazos. He placed banderillas in acceptable fashion, at least as well as any subalterno could have done, but also demonstrated that, in this suerte, he is never going to be compared to Carlos Arruza, or even Fernando Dos Santos.

His faena had many good moments, on both sides, but his personality overwhelmed any quality that his toreo may have contained. At the supreme moment, he placed a bajonazo that should have denied any consideration for awards. The animal died, quickly, in a cascade of blood from a punctured lung, while the crowd applauded, enthusiastically. Two ears were cut, although at best, only one might have been deserved. I emphasize “might.”

It was a similar story with his second animal: all personality and little honesty. He placed another bajonazo and cut still another ear, one that was totally undeserved.

Then, we came to Antonio Garcia, whose toreo, comparatively, made that of the late Carlos Malaga “El Sol” seem like classical toreo. This young man’s toreo bordered on the imbecilic. Did I say “bordered”? I take that back, he crossed way beyond that line. He showed no respect for Toro Bravo. 

Rather than a suit of lights, he should have worn a spangled straitjacket. He opened with that which was originally designed to be a puerta gayola, but he was only a few feet from the barrera, and kept moving to his left, until he was nearly invisible to the bull. But, it worked, inspiring the asylum of villamelones to respond in that repugnant way that villamelones are prone to do.

He, too, placed his own sticks. In this, he showed great athleticism, but little else. His faena was a farce, and his sword placement was still another that was even lower than that of the famous rincón de Ordoñez. Oh, my God, did I actually mention Antonio Garcia in the same breath with the maestro, Antonio Ordoñez? I should be beaten about the head and shoulders! 

At least, Garcia was limited to only a vuelta.

But, with the last of the day, this aficionado wondered if, perhaps, he had entered the wrong gate and was watching characters in strange costumes, pretending to wrestle other characters, dressed in equally strange costumes. Not only was Garcia’s faena a disgrace, it even included, of all things, the salta de rana (the infamous “frog” pass), something that I had hoped I would never again have to witness. Toward the end of the (dare I say —“performance”?), Gar-cia went to his knees and poured sand all over his suit of lights and even in his hair. I thought that, perhaps, rather than pursuing toreo, he should have his own, personalized sand box. He proceeded to further denigrate the bravery of the animal and the dignity of tauromachy that was reminiscent of every cheap tremendista that this reporter has ever had the displeasure of observing.

After placing still another bajonazo, which brought a quick, but messy, death, Garcia even lay down, next to his dead bull! This was a pure debacle, a black eye on the otherwise honorable face of La Fiesta Brava. 

It was a nightmare afternoon that will go down in history as one of the least memorable that this observer has witnessed in 50 years of watching Los Toros.

Shame on the crowd. Shame on the juez de la plaza! Shame on the empresa.

  And, above all, shame on two, young novilleros who insulted the honor of dignified toreo!

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