February 9, 2007

A Sad Farewell to Plaza ‘El Toreo’ de Tijuana

Bullfight World
By Lyn Sherwood

Barring a miracle or an equally unlikely political commutation, by the time that you read this edition of La Prensa San Diego, Plaza de Toros “El Toreo de Tijuana” will have been torn down and a large piece of Tijuana history will have been consigned either to dusty history or a new center of commercial enterprise. Somehow, Bullfight World anticipates the latter.

Naturally, it’s only a case of pure coincidence that the decision to dismantle the bullring, ostensibly due to its faulty structural integrity, occurred just before the 2007 deadline date of 50 years, which would have preserved the plaza as a National Treasure monument. The timing rather defeated the definition of “coincidence”, didn’t it?

According to the fine aficionado/historian Art Diaz, the very first plaza de toros in Tijuana was a wooden structure that would accommodate 2000 and was built in 1904 by Sevillian banderillero Antonio Gonzalez Rubio and Mexicali merchant Don José R. Alvarez, in the square block then described by 3rd and 4th streets and Avenida Revolu-ción and Avenida Madero.

In May of 1911, the plaza was burned to the ground, allegedly by Welsh mercenary Caryl Pryce, and was subsequently replaced by a new, slightly larger (capacity 2,500) plaza, on 5th and 6th streets and became the center of Tiju-ana’s taurine activities in the 1920s and 1930s. It was officially inaugurated as Plaza El Toreo de Tijuana on July 3, 1938. Practically every great torero of the era performed in that historic plaza de toros.

But, then came another convenient fire, in 1957, and the plaza was rebuilt, using metal beams to replace the old wooden ones.

The plaza enjoyed many years of history and prosperity, until Plaza Monumental, better known as “The Bullring by the Sea”, was built by Major Salvador López Hurtado, who even constructed an improved highway to Playas de Tijuana. There came a period in which the two bullrings operated in competition with each other, until they finally came to an accord in which they would share the summer bullfight seasons.

Everything seemed to be operating smoothly, until about the 1990s, when incompetent marketing and advertising cut dramatically into promoting bullfights to aficionados and visitors from north of the border. That’s when everything started sliding down a slippery slope and it became apparent to the administrators of the two plazas that there wasn’t enough room in Dodge for two gun slinging bullrings to continue showing a profit.

At some point in time, a shootout was scheduled, at high noon. One of the two plazas would have to be gunned down, partner. And, as it turned out, a fatal wound was delivered to the heart of the downtown plaza.

The announcement of the demise of the plaza initiated a free swinging garage sale, in which taurine vultures began collecting “souvenirs” that ranged from burladeros, statuary, plaques, and other items of historic value. Finally, the city police stepped in and put an end to the rampant looting. But, many irreplaceable items had been lost, forever.

The owners of the plaza and the property on which it stands have not revealed what will be the future of the valuable square block, but aficionados shouldn’t be surprised if a Wal Mart or another large shopping center should magically appear on the land.

Alas, poor Plaza El Toreo de Tijuana. I knew it.

*****

Bullfight World doffs its Cordobés to Matador Eliseo “El Charro” Gómez, who has been honored for spending 50 years as an integral part of La Fiesta Brava. A resident of Mexicali, he was born in Tepartitlán, near Guadalajara, which has erected a four meter-tall statue of him and has named a street after him.

During his career, El Charro performed in more than 60 novilladas and over 500 corridas de toros. He received three grave gorings.

¡Viva, El Charro!

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