June 13, 2008

Bullfight World
By Lyn Sherwood

What’s going on with the Tijuana bullfights?

If I seem to be confused, it’s because I am. First, the corrida de toros originally scheduled for July 6 was canceled, because—we were told—there was a financial dispute between Tijuana empresa Pepe López Hurtado and matador “El Zotoluco.”

Then, a meeting was called to announce that three Tijuana-born matadors would perform in Tijuana, July 6. But, at the same time that the meeting was being held, Pepe López Hurtado was holding a press conference, in which he announced that there would be no corrida, July 6, in Plaza Monumental de Tijuana. He gave as his reason the violence that has erupted in Tijuana, and for that matter, all border bullrings.

In the meantime, the fans are asking, what the hell is going on? Good question. But, nobody seems to have an answer.

We have to look back at Tijuana bullfight history, especially that which has been recorded since the builder of “The Beautiful Bullring by The Sea”, Major Salvador López Hurtado, died, leaving his Tijuana and Juárez bullrings to his sons, Pepe López and Antonio Hurtado.

Soon, the Juárez ring was destroyed, to make room for a new shopping center. But, that was OK. The city still had the old arena, the Balderas, which oddly enough, was also controlled by the “company”, the Mexico City organization that controls many plazas de toros and is in charge of bullfighting, boxing, wrestling, and other public spectacles. After extensive refurbishment, bullfights were presented in the Balderas ring, and have continued, there, very profitably.

Nevertheless, the violence that is the result of a mano a mano between competing illegal drug cartels, has continued—in spite of the presence of the Mexican military—is at its apex in Juárez. They can’t even keep a police chief in Juárez, because as soon as one is appointed, he’s assassinated.

Fast forward to Tijuana, where Plaza El Toreo, which was controlled by the company, was torn down. A major shopping center will soon be built in its place.

But, that’s OK, because bullfight fans still had Plaza Monumental, which is the third largest plaza de toros in the world, just a few hundred short of the capacity of Plaza de Las Ventas, in Madrid.

The season opened, as usual. But, reports of a huge turnout of fans proved to be rather optimistic.

In the meantime, the plaza began to decay. The bronze sculpture, “The Encierro”, by the great Humberto Peraza, was allowed to fall victim to the salt water winds to which it was exposed, began to crumble and was soon hauled away.

Readers should first realize that the Hurtado brothers are not great fans of the company. For that matter, they weren’t, shall we say, especially close to their father. Pepe López told this reporter that he was not going to renew his plaza’s contract with the company, but would run the plaza as an independent entity.

But, that translated to problems, for most of the top ranked matadors, including El Zotoluco, are controlled by the company.

In addition to those realities, the advertising and publicity program for the plaza was terrible. Nothing was invested in advertising north of the border, and very little was invested in Tijuana.

Then, this latest crisis, which Pepe López blames on the violence in Tijuana. One might wonder if he fears for his own life, should he continue to present bullfights. Who knows?

But, this particular battle, which is being held in the OK Corral of Tijuana bullfights, is just the tip of the criminal elements that are making so many headlines in the American press media. Add the pressure of the company and you have an untenable situation. The Hurtado Brothers, versus the company and the drug cartels just doesn’t sound like an equitable fight. So, it would seem that the Hurtados, at least for the time being, have stepped aside.

One thing is for certain. No matter what is being said or promised, in Mexico, nothing happens until it actually happens. Lip service serves no purpose, although it’s a popular pastime. Rumors dominate, and there are plenty of them to go around.

In the meantime, Bullfight World will continue to keep its aficionado readers entertained with feature pieces and taurine news from other parts of the world, with more extensive attention on the bloodless bullfights that are held in California.

We cannot believe that a market as lucrative as Tijuana should be abandoned because of violence and politics. Where is The Lone Ranger, now that we really need him?

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