January 6, 2006

Bullfight World
By Lyn Sherwood

MEXICO’S GREATEST BULLFIGHT EMPRESARIO, DR. GAONA, DIES

Plaza Mexico Empresa Herrerías Tries to Bribe, Threatens to Kill. Mexican Matadors’ Representative

It is with deep, personal regret and sense of loss that Bullfight World announces the death of Dr. Alfonso Gaona, who passed away Jan. 2, following a long illness. On Jan. 22nd, he would have been 94 years old.

The first empresario of La Plaza Mexico, his list of bullring management also included Plaza El Toreo de Tijuana, Plaza Monumentál de Juárez. Morelia, San Luis Potosí, and Acapulco. In his inauguration as empresa, he presented the alternativa of Carlos Arruza, with Fermín Espinosa Armillita and Paco Gorráez. And, in the grand opening of La Plaza Mexico, he contracted the famed Manolete.

In any taurine gathering, mention the name of Dr. Gaona and you would be certain to inspire an argument, if not an actual fist fight. He was a highly controversial character. He had allegedly blackballed a number of toreros, and also allegedly, cheated, or lied to, a number of others.

Yet, he also discovered and helped many toreros, including several gringos, Robert Ryan, Jeff Ramsey, David Renk, and Walter de la Brosse.When it came to Dr. Gaona, you either loved him or you hated him. There was no middle ground. Yet, his contributions to La Fiesta Brava far outnumbered any evils that he might have committed. He was always honest and forthright with this reporter, and once even intervened when there was a federal warrant out for my arrest.

Whenever I was in Mexico City, I always found the time to stop by his optometry shop for a visit with Dr. Gaona. One thing that I discovered about him was that he never directly responded to any question. He always allowed himself an escape route.When his Plaza Mexico regime was overthrown by a Cuban businessman, Dr. Gaona actually spent some time in prison.

Later, I visited him and asked, “It is rumored that you are going to return as an empresa. Is that true?”

“Lyn, in this world, all things are possible.”

“Come on, Doctor, don’t play games with me. Are you returning, or not?”

“Lyn, in Spain, there should be a Spanish empresa. In Mexico, there should be a Mexican empresa. And, in Cuba, there are no bullfights.”

Adios, Dr. Gaona. You will be missed, but you’ll never be replaced.

And, speaking of politics in the Mexican bullfight scene, the battle between the Mexican matadors’ union and Plaza Mexico Empresa Rafael He-rrerías is becoming murkier, by the day.

As you may recall, due to a dispute over the presentation of Mexican and Spanish matadors on the same card, the Mexican union leveled sanctions against two Mexican and two Spanish matadors. The Spanish matadors’ union responded by rescinding the convenio, which had allowed Spaniards to fight in Mexico and Mexicans to fight in Spain.

Thereafter, in sympathy with his two sanctioned comrades, Mexico’s number one matador, “El Zotoluco”, resigned from the union. He was followed by Matador José Maria Luevano, who was promptly signed to fight, last Sunday, in La Plaza Mexico.

It seems that La Plaza Mexico, either legally or by tradition, is exempt from following the dictates of the Mexican matadors union.Jason Morgan, a fine aficionado, sent the following note to the Mundo Taurino web site and gave permission for it to be published in Bullfight World.

“I can understand Zotoluco and Luevano’s desire to be in La Mexico. I believe it to be the same desire that all Mexican matadors have. By crossing the picket line and joining the establishment, they have been rewarded by spots on the cartels.

“Have Paco Gonzales and Oscar San Román, by standing their ground and speaking out for the union, sealed their fate? Will they be reduced to fighting in festivals and third call plazas?

“Is the sticking point the two (Mexicans) with two (Spaniards) rule in the convenio? . If so, Herrerías complied by putting a rejoneador (Mexican Rodrigo Santos) on the card. (The convenio states that the nationality of a rejoneador is not counted in the 50/50 rule.)

“But, if by some bizarre series of acts, (all of) the matadors were incapacitated, do you know of any rejoneador who would want to confront (all of the) bulls (on the card)?

“Not even Lyn’s legendary hero of the past, Arruza, would welcome that challenge! A matador would be obligated to do so. Rejoneadors are not matadors!”

The question, now, is will Mexico’s number one attraction, Eloy Cavazos, join the fray, and if so, on which side?

Adding still more fuel to the fire, it was reported, late last week, by taurine journalist Pepe Mata, that his colleague Miguel Ángel García had revealed a declaration by Paco González, who represents the Mexican toreros, that he had been offered a bribe by Herrerías to turn his back on the toreros and join the dark side, and when he declined, He-rrerías threatened to have him killed!

“Fifteen days ago, in an Argentine restaurant near the (offices of the) Asociación de Matadores, where he found me, dining, Herrerías offered me 100,000 pesos a month and 40 corridas de toros, if I would turn my back on the Asociación. I did not accept and Herrerías told me that he would send somebody to kill me.

“I have sent a letter to Sr. Miguel Alemán Velasco and Sr. Miguel Alemán Magnami, explaining the situation with Herrerías. It is known by everyone that those two persons are behind Herrerías. Sr. Miguel Alemán Valdez (Velasco’s father) is a former president of the Republic of Mexico, one who has the respect of the Mexican (people). I have not received a response to the letter that I sent.”

Things are getting more and more curious in Mexico. What do you suppose Dr. Gaona would think about it?

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