By Lyn Sherwood
I have, at times, been criticized for stating that David Silveti is the finest Mexican torero that I have ever seen. And, that’s going up against some pretty fine toreros, people like Manolo Martinez, Jorge Gutierrez, Manuel Capetillo, Rafael Rodriguez … the list goes on.
But, to this observer, toreo comes from the heart. And, I have never known any torero, Mexican, Spaniard, or whomever, who invests as much heart into his torero as does David Silveti. I have seen him in the middle of a faena with tears flowing down his cheeks. His honesty is profound, his desire beyond reproach, and his technical ability without par.
He has only one problem. A pair of knees that have been badly damaged. He has endured so many surgeries on them, that seven years ago, he was forced into retirement. But, if David Silveti had had a decent pair of knees, he could have dominated the entire mundo taurino.
Through perseverance, courage, and even more surgeries, David has returned. And, Mexican bullfighting is again the land of a truly great torero.
I would have liked to have been present, last Sunday, for David’s return corrida in Tijuana. But, such was not to be. Therefore, and with the consent of Bullfight World’s Tijuana correspondent, Gary Sloan, I present the review of the afternoon as seen through the eyes of the fine aficionado Dean Reinemann.
Shame and glory. David Silveti had both, Sunday, at Plaza El Toreo de Tijuana.
Silveti, perhaps the most physically abused torero in the latter half of the past century, had returned only last Saturday to fight in Querétaro, after a seven year break from active fighting. The Mexican press said that Silveti was tentative and was tossed, several times, without consequence. He cut one ear.
Silveti is not a young man. He is 47. For his return, he trained with exercise, diet, and physical therapy, and lost about 65 pounds. Tough enough, but more incredible, his seriously injured knees and legs have had more than 40 operations.
A younger Silveti was christened “El Rey David” (King David) for his smooth, brave, artistic, honest and majestic style. He was, perhaps, the most likedno, belovedtorero of his generation by the Mexican bullfight public and esteemed by his professional peers.
This background is necessary to set the stage for last Sunday’s drama. Only half the arena was filled, but in the air there was fully palpable longing for the success of Silveti and for refilling of the heart’s space he had once filled so well.
Rejoneador Rodrigo Santos opened with an impressive showing of horsemanship and toreo. He has improved and changed measurably in the short span of a year or two. His bull from Begoña provided the material to gain the award of an ear.
Then, it was Silveti’s turn. It was a downturn. Tentative lances with the capote were poorly timed. Jerky and incomplete work followed with the muleta. Then, multiple attempts with the sword. One, then two, then the third aviso sounded. The bull was ordered out of the arena.
Incredibly, the most disgraceful judgment given by the clock and the authority was Silveti’s. In less time than most people spend to get dressed in the morning, the hopes of the crowd had been killed. The fans weren’t ugly, but the letdown was seen, heard, and felt. Nobody had anticipated this ignoble outcome.
Jorge Mora and Fernando Ochoa gave competent performances on the third and fourth bulls, but the afternoon was not to be theirs.
Silveti stepped into the ring to face his second bull, and all heaven broke out. Whereas his lances with his first bull were as those of a green novillero, these were smooth and controlled. His style reflected artful maturity, sapience in motion.
No more details need to be given. What details are there of a sunset? Of a child’s laughter? Of a glass of fine wine? A kiss? For those in the arena, from the sand groomers to the prim ladies in the palcos, from the most knowledgeable aficionado to the dumbest tourist, Silveti had them all with him. Virtually motionless, while moving only his arms and wrists, Silveti built a faena of profound satisfaction. Later, Fernando Ochoa said, in a radio interview, “He moved his wrist like he was caressing a woman.” Both Ochoa and Mora were jumping with excitement, throwing their arms skyward like joyful children in the callejón, during the faena. When has that been seen?
The crowd begged for an indulto, but the authority rightly would not have it. Although Silveti glanced upward toward the authority, it’s a good bet he, neither, thought that an indulto was appropriate. Silveti was and is too honest to duck out on a kill. No matter the outcome, Silveti wanted the beginning, the middle, and the end.
He lined up, entered, and placed a sword, perfectly located to the hilt, and down in death went the bull.
Silveti’s performance is testimony to why there are people in the stands, corrida after corrida, year after year, and decade after decade. As one joyful, living organism, the crowd and the authority bestowed two ears and the tail. The bull from the El Junco ranch was given a turn of the ring.
To the afternoon’s satisfaction, add the graciousness of Silveti. While this clearly was, from the beginning, to be his day, when introduced to the crowd and showered with a standing ovation after the parade, Silveti insisted that Mora and Ochoa also step out. When his banderillero placed three excellent pairs of banderillas on the first bull, Silveti again insisted that the torero step out and hear the crowd’s ovation.
No matter what occurs in the coming months, with corridas already booked through the year for Silveti in Mexico and South America, those who were present in Tijuana, last Sunday, will forever have this truly magnificent experience etched into their memories.