April 25, 2008

Bullfight World
by Lyn Sherwood



When a famed Mexican matador retires from bullfighting, it’s usually a long process, for he goes through a retirement ceremony in each of the major plazas de toros in which he has performed.

But, such was not the case, last Saturday, when “The Little Giant” Eloy Cavazos, bid farewell to his Tijuana fans. First of all, the ceremony took place in a portable, 3,500 capacity bullring, erected at Caliente. How does a matador bid farewell to a plaza in which he has never before performed? “Hello. Nice to meet you. Goodbye.”

How does a matador, particularly one of the fame of Eloy Cavazos, make his debut and his farewell appearance the same day, in a bullring that lacks any category? That’s a question that has gone unanswered. In fact, very few reviewers even bother asking, for the answer would be just shrug of the shoulders.

Some 42 years ago, the diminutive Cavazos received his professional doctorate. His sponsor was Antonio Velásquez, while the witness was Manolo Martinez. Since then, Eloy has been a fixture in Mexican bullfighting, one who has left his mark even in Spain, where he offered an historic performance in Plaza de Las Ventas and left on the shoulders of the fans.

Eloy’s elfish image, combined with his outstanding abilities with the sword, have made Cavazos the número uno of all Mexican matadores.

In 1985, he retired in La Plaza Mexico, then followed up with a similar ceremony in his home city of Monterrey, the virtual cradle of famed Mexican matadores. But, he couldn’t stay away from the rings. His retirement lasted a little over one year. He returned, and for two more decades, demonstrated a brand of knowledge and experience that has been equaled by very few toreros in bullfight history. Along the way, he recorded countless triumphs. He also suffered several near fatal gorings.

Thus, last Saturday, Eloy retired, definitely, working in his final Tijuana corrida, alternating with Alejandro Amaya and Oscar San Román, facing a herd of bulls from the Montecristo ranch.

A review could have been written the day before the corrida. There was no doubt of its outcome. Eloy cut four ears and a tail, while his alternates offered some fine work, but failed at the supreme moment and thus, did not win any awards.

But, the question still remained. One might correctly assume that the retirement performance of a matador of the fame of Eloy Cavazos would be a big deal, a reason for huge celebrations in major bullrings. After all, in Tijuana, the world’s second largest plaza de toros, known as “The Beautiful Bullring by the Sea”, is just sitting there, vacant and mute, while the powers that determine such things debate whether or not a season of any type will be held, there, this summer.

The political unrest, inspired by Mexico’s crackdown on illegal drug cartels and smugglers, has resulted in grave danger in frontier cities. Foreigners have been kidnapped. Some have been murdered. It isn’t unusual to see heavily armed Mexican soldiers, camped out at major intersections in Tijuana, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Juárez, Reynosa, and all other border crossings along the way.

Uncle Sam has issued warnings to her citizens, citing the potential danger of visiting border cities, and is on the verge of closing the borders to all foreign visitors. In the meantime, the debate over building a wall between the two countries continues to dominate the headlines.

And, that, my friends, does not portend a joyful summer bullfight season in Tijuana, or any other major frontier city. A dark cloud looms ominously, over whatever “season”, if any, is finally presented.

Bullfight World will keep its readers advised of all developments. But, as is common in Latin America, promises are cheap. Nothing ever happens, until it actually happens.

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