Forgive me my friends, for being a week late with this Bullfight World column. I was in the hospital.
It has been a long, sad week. First, Dick Frontain, my very close friend and a true cornerstone of taurine afición in the United States, has died. Dick, who lived in Tucson, wrote several taurine books and was an excellent bullfight photographer. He was on the original staff of Clarín, the English language bullfight magazine that I published for more than 30 years.
Next, Carlos Vargas, the amateur torero of whom I reported in the last Bullfight World column, passed away, while on life support. He never regained consciousness, after a torito of only 320 kilos, tossed him. Carlos, 65, landed on his head and suffered severe injuries to his neck.
To both, Dick and Carlos, QEPD.
On Sunday, Nov. 11, the final corrida of the 2007 Season at the Hurtado Brothers’ “Beautiful Bullring by the Sea,” saw some 10,000 spectators who turned out in the chilly, overcast weather and rain, to see the fabulous Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza, with matadores José Rodriquez, “Pepe Hillo,” and Juan Chavez, with two bulls from Rancho Seco for Pablo, and four bulls from Marco Garfias for the matadors on foot. Gary Sloan reviewed the action.
What can anybody say about Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza? He’s simply the best rejoneador there is. His first bull, “Navarro,” 430 kilos, didn’t have the proper trapío for rejoneo, as it would not sustain a long enough charge and pursuit of the horse. Still, Pablo tried to impose his magic on the beast, and some fine moments were had, but because of the bull, it was not one of his great performances. Aplausos al tercio.
By the time Pablo’s second bull, “Haragan,” 435 kilos, came into the ring, it had been raining lightly, but steadily for 30 minutes, and everyone was wet. This was a much better lídia than the first, and Mendoza had some spectacular moments. Still, it could have been better, had the bull demonstrated more desire for the horse. A good kill resulted in an ear.
(Editor’s note: The toreros on foot revealed a truth about Mexican toreo. There are many fine, young men who might some day become outstanding matadores. But, as it is so expensive to be a novillero, having to purchase most of your opportunities, many kids seek and receive the alternative, long before they’re qualified. The result is novilleros who carry the title of Matador de Toros, in name, only.)
With his first bull, “Debutante,” 465 kilos, José Rodriguez opened with a farol de rodillas, against the fence, and then moved to los medios, and a fine set of Veronicas, with a crisp media Veronica de rodillas for the remate. After the pic, José did a set of Chicuelinas antiguas Navarras and finished with a revolera. He then invited Juan Chavez to do a quite, and the young lad did a great set of Chicuelinas, with a terrific serpintina revolera combo, for the remate. José then placed his own sticks, one pair al cuarteo, one pair al quiebro, and the last pair, cortas al violin.
The faena was very good, nice tandas on both sides, with dominio, and temple. Then a long tanda of naturales ayudados, that were very good. One half thrust then another full thrust with the sword were followed by one golpe with the descabello. Applausos.
With his second toro, the largest of the day, “Hasta Pronto,” 510 kilos, José once again started with a farol de rodillas, against the barrera, stepped up, and continued with fine Veronicas, and a media Veronica for the remate. “Hasta Pronto” knocked the horse down, hard. After the pic, José placed the banderillas in exactly the same way as the first.
The faena was much like his previous one, except this bull became very distracted, and José had to chase him around. He finally got the bull interested in the muleta, and managed to accomplish a few great tandas of naturales ayudados. However poor sword work and an aviso cost him every thing.
With his first bull, “Chiquillo,” 480 kilos, Juan Chavez started with a farol de rodillas against the fence. Then, he did a set of Veronicas, and a media Veronica, and he looked a little inexperienced. The faena was more of the same, and he clearly did not have the goods to deal with this animal. One pinchazo, then a three quarter thrust that was very effective, and it was over. Aplausos.
With his second Toro, “Cerrojazo,” 505 kilos, the lad fared a little better. He started with decent Veronicas and a media Veronica for the remate. After the pic, he did a very rare quite, “Crinolinas,” kind of a reverse Veronica, but different than a Tafalera,” very well and finished with a revolera.
The faena was much better than his first. Mainly due to the bull, although it was larger, it was much more noble than his first animal, and Chavez had some very good tandas on both sides. A final series of “Lacernistas,” then one pinchazo, and an almost full thrust and the faena, and the season came to an end. Aplausos for the faena.
And so the 2007 season finished in the dark and in the rain, but it was worth the effort. Soon to follow, I will have a recap, and the best of revue for the entire season.
During an interview in Sevilla, Enrique Ponce offered a quote by Boadella. Here is a rough translation:
“The fiesta of the bulls is a didactic rite, the most moral art that exists in which all human values can be found, as well as all the elements that shape our nature: life, death, courage and fear. As today, our society insists on concealing death and suffering. It is the bulls that serve as a reminder of the inexorable and a way to learn to live with it.”