November 3, 2006

BULLFIGHT WORLD
by Lyn Sherwood

Barrera Triumphs in Final Tijuana Corrida
Crowd Turns on Plaza Judge: “Otro Juez!”

Antonio Barrera registered a huge triumph, while the plaza judge found himself on the receiving end of a huge protest, last Sunday, in the final corrida de toros of the 2006 Tijuana season. Gary Sloan reports.

Sunday, Oct. 29, the Hurtado Family’s “Beautiful Bullring by The Sea,” saw a crowd of about 6,000 turned out to witness eight bulls from the Real de Saltillo ranch, presented to matadores Rafael Ortega, Antonio Barrera, Omar Villaseñor, and José Mauricio.

It was a shame that the afternoon attracted such a small crowd, for it turned into a very fine, and also rather controversial, day, in which the plaza judge was loudly criticized, first for being too liberal, and finally, for being too conservative.

With the first bull of the afternoon, “Don Angel” (475 kilos), Rafael Ortega opened with some nice veronicas, climaxed with a media veronica. The bull was brave against the horses.

Ortega then shined in the second act, placing two pairs of banderillas al cuarteo and a third pair al violin. He received a huge ovation. But, his faena de muleta was only average, and was climaxed with a low, but effective sword, winning one undeserved ear.

With his second bull, “Peresoso” (455 kilos), Ortega offered practically a carbon copy of his first lídia, except when it came time to kill. The sword was a disgraceful bajonazo. But, for whatever reason, the plaza judge suffered a case of diarrhea of the hankie, granting totally undeserved ears and tail to the matador. The awards inspired a huge protest from the crowd, which chanted, “Otro juez! Otro juez!”

With his second bull, “Cali” (455 kilos), still another protest against the plaza judge was recorded. Antonio Barrera had to chase the bull all over the ring, in order to accomplish a few veronicas. The bull was distracted against the horses. It was not a brave animal. But, in the third act, the toro became a pussycat, a classic manso con estilo, easy in the muleta and generally just plain stupid. The indulto is supposed to be granted for bravery, not stupidity.

In his faena, Barrera opened with a smooth set of pases de trinchera, taking the animal to the center of the ring. Then, he really turned it on, offering series after series of beautiful muletazos to both sides, demonstrating temple and complete control. After about 70 passes, Barrera lined up the bull for the sword, but the crowd, fooled by the bull’s willingness to attack, began a petition for the life-sparing indulto, something that the bull did not deserve.

Pausing and looking to the judge’s box for direction, the matador was told to kill. So, Barrera went back to work, delivering another three or four series on both sides. Again, he lined up with the sword. Again, the crowd petitioned for the indulto. Again, the plaza judge denied the petition. And, again, Barrera delivered more series of passes. Finally and properly, Barrera killed with a perfectly-placed sword.

The bull was granted a turn of the ring, and Barrera was awarded well-deserved ears and tail. The crowd strongly applauded the awards, but likewise demonstrated its disdain for the judge’s decision. Go figure.

With his second bull, “Conchito” (525 kilos), Barrera offered some nice work with the capote. Following the pic’ing, he began his faena on his knees. The balance of his third act was good, but didn’t come near to the level of his first performance. After one sword entry and two thrusts with the descabello, Barrera was awarded one ear.

Omar Villaseñor is a strange torero. His intentions are good, but his execution leaves a great deal to be desired. He opened with some stiff, awkward veronicas to his first bull. His style with the big cape is really kind of weird. And, his faena de muleta was scary. He’s tall and likes to hold the muleta low, then pivot his body, as the bull attacks, resulting in something rather gangly. But, this animal wouldn’t go along with this strange style and gave Omar a strong tossing. At the end, the matador managed to win a gift-wrapped ear.

It was a similar story with his second toro, “Cheli” (500 kilos), offering more of the same strangeness with the capote. After the pic’ing, the matador did a hair-raising set of gaoneras that were nearly suicidal. The faena was the same as his first, incompetent and rather boring. After some troubles with the sword, his efforts were properly rewarded with silence from the crowd.

José Mauricio did some decent veronicas and the media to his first bull, “Carretero” (475 kilos). Anxious to please, he began his third act with three péndulos in a row. The performance that followed was pretty good, with some nice work on both sides to a very brave bull. Following a good sword, which for whatever reason, didn’t do the job, three more attempts and a hearing a warning aviso later, Carretero finally fell. A turn of the ring for both the bull and the matador.

With his second toro, “Pintor” (480 kilos), the last animal of the season, José again did some nice work with the capote. He opened his faena with three consecutive pases de la muerte, maintaining his spot on the sand. The rest of the performance was very good, with both the bull and the torero performing well. However, bad luck with the sword denied him otherwise deserved awards.

On the whole, it was an excellent afternoon. Next week, we’ll review the entire season and name the best in a variety of categories.

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