By Lyn Sherwood
Correspondent Gary Sloan traveled to Mexicali for a corrida de toros, April 22, but he didn’t like what he saw. Here is his report:
Six bulls from La Cardenilla were presented to matadors Manolo Arruza, Rodolfo Rodriguez “El Pana”, and César Pastor. But, the afternoon turned out to be tragic for one banderillero, while El Pana was banned, forever, from performing in Plaza de Toros Calafia.
No more than 2,000 fans were in attendance, due especially to the high winds and hot weather that made the afternoon difficult for everybody concerned. The winds were gusting at 50 or 60 mph.
The lowest of the lowlights of the afternoon occurred when banderillero Pepe Luna was positioning the bull, in order that his matador, Arruza, could place the sticks. A gust of wind blew the cape and Pepe received a brutal goring that ruptured his femoral artery. With blood pumping profusely, he was rushed to the infirmary, but there weren’t, apparently, the proper facilities or blood supply available to treat such a vicious goring.
Very concerned about the goring, Arruza didn’t attempt even a single pass with the muleta, but killed the bull, while total chaos enveloped the disappointed fans in the stands. As the senior sword, Arruza demanded that the rest of the afternoon be canceled. The fans boo’ed, loudly, as Arruza rushed into the infirmary. Minutes later, he came out, got on the P.A. system and begged for anybody with B positive blood to please come to the infirmary.
Sheer panic ensued. Several minutes later, the plaza judge made the announcement that Pepe Luna had died from the goring. The crowd went silent. Then, incredibly, several minutes later, a second announcement was made that the banderillero wasn’t really dead, but that he was in very, very grave condition and on the way to the hospital, for surgery. (Later in the week, it was reported that he was still in intensive care and in stable, but guarded condition.)
The afternoon continued. With his second bull, in spite of the winds, Arruza managed to accomplish a good opening veronica. His faena, accomplished under the extremely dangerous conditions, was brave and honorable. A good sword climaxed the performance and the matador was applauded.
With his first animal, “Opalo” (445 kilos), El Pana could do nothing with the cape, due to the raging winds. In the third act, he managed a few decent moments, here and there, but nothing resembling a genuine faena. His sword was a bajonazo (disgracefully, in the lungs) and the animal dropped, quickly. There was a silly petition for an ear, but thankfully, the plaza judge denied the award.
Then, came his second bull, and all of the hype that has surrounded El Pana, ever since his big triumph in Mexico City, went blowing in the wind. He did absolutely nothing with cape or muleta. After his first sword entry hit bone, he fled behind a burladero and refused to re-enter the ring. Had there been a plaza band, he would easily have received the three warnings. But, the ending was still the same. The bull was led back to the corrals, alive, and El Pana’s shameless, disgraceful non-performance came to an end. (The Mexicali newspapers later reported that El Pana had been fined 20,000 pesos and was banned, for life, from ever again appearing in Plaza Calafia. A fit punishment.)
César Pastor couldn’t do much with the cape, due to the wind, but did offer a nice set of chicuelinas antiguas as a quite, following the pics. His faena was dangerous, but he at least attempted to get something out of the bull and the afternoon. This resulted in a dangerous tossing, but only his taleguilla (pants) was shredded. One low thrust and one golpe with the descabello finished things and he was applauded.
As a sidenote, there will be a Gran Concurso de Paellas, followed by a festival of four Pepe Garfias novillos, at the La Cetto winery, in the Valle de Guadalupe, between Tecate and Ensenada, Saturday, May 5, beginning at 2 p.m. Admission is $40 for advance tickets, or $50 at the gate. Interested parties should contact Alfonso Hernandez, at Five Star Tours, by calling (619) 232-5040.