January 20, 2006

Bullfight World
By Lyn Sherwood

Showdown at the Insurgentes Corral

The sun was setting as the two gangs of gunslingers rode into town, one group from the south, the other from the north. They eyed each other, suspiciously, as they tethered their horses to the hitching post, threw open the swinging doors, and entered the bar.

The juke box was playing a rendition of “Tom Dooley”, adding still another palpable degree of tension to the room. The gunslingers took their places, standing around the poker table, in order to protect their respective employers.

Don Paco González and Rafael Herrerías took their seats at opposite sides of the table. It was showdown time, and only one of the two players would survive the inevitable battle that was to come. One got the impression that the ghost of Gary Cooper was, somehow, watching the scene.

Of course, the rules would be a bit different for this game of poker. All of González’ cards would be dealt face up, while those of Herrerías would be dealt face down. It wasn’t exactly fair or legal. But, this was Mexico, where fairness and legality can be trumped by political influence.

González, as head of the Mexican Matadors’ union, had taken action against a bullfight card in La Plaza Mexico that seemed, on the face of it, to be totally legal, according to the union’s own regulations and those of the convenio between Mexico and Spain.

The regulation states that no Mexican bullfight can present any card in which there are more Spaniards than Mexicans. The same is true on the other side of the pond. No Spanish card that has more Mexicans than Spaniards can be presented. In this particular card in La Plaza Mexico, there were two Mexican and two Spanish matadores, plus a Mexican rejoneador, whose nationality is not supposed to even be counted in the 50/50 division requirement.

Following the corrida, González and the Mexican union suspended the two Mexican matadors for one year, each, and the two Spanish matadors for six years, each.  The reasoning was that, as the alternativa of the rejoneador preceded that of any of the four matadors, the rejoneador would become, in effect, the ad hoc director de lídia. If all of the four matadores should be injured, he would be legally bound to kill all of the bulls that remained in the corrals.

Of course, that was just nonsense!  If there had been no rejoneador on the card, or if there had been one whose seniority was superceded by one of the matadores, would the incident have ever occurred?

As a result, two Mexican matadors, El Zotoluco and José Luevano, demonstrating their allegiance with the two sanctioned Mexican matadors, renounced their membership in the Mexican union.

And, in response to the sanctioning of the two Spanish matadors, the Spanish union of matadors broke the convenio between Mexico and Spain. No more Spaniards, fighting in Mexico; no more Mexicans, fighting in Spain.

Except. You certainly expected an “except,” didn’t you?  The other player in this game of one-sided poker was Sr. Rafael Herrerías, the em-presa of La Plaza Mexico, on Insurgentes Boulevard, and he seems to think that the Mexican matadors’ union cannot impose its silly regulations on the world’s largest bullring. He proceeded to sign a Spaniard and one of the two sanctioned Mexicans to perform, the following Sunday, in La Plaza Mexico.

The Spaniard, on orders of his union, refused to participate on the card, but the Mexican did.

One might assume that if the union’s regulations were legally constituted—fair or not—there would be police at the exits, waiting to arrest Herrerías and the Mexican matador. But, that never happened. The government in the Distrito Federal seemed to put its head in the sand and hope that the entire thing would just blow over.

Why?  Because of a couple of fellows, Miguel Alemán Velasco and Miguel Alemán Magnani, who appear to be the political and economic powers behind Herrerías.

And, as Miguel Alemán Velasco is the grandson of a former, very popular, Mexican president, taking action against Herrerías might result in a rather sticky wicket.

Standing in the shadows was a couple of gunslingers who were anxious and ready to step in and form a new union, should González lose the showdown. And, was there ever any doubt that he would lose?

Two weeks earlier, González revealed that Herrerías had made him “an offer that he couldn’t refuse.” Renounce the union and come over to the dark side, and receive plenty of money, every month, or face dissolution of the union. He turned down the offer, and Godfather Herrerías threatened to have him killed. He didn’t even offer to give him a kiss of death!

González wrote a letter to the two Alemanes, in which he revealed what Herrerías had said. According to González, he never received a response to his letter.

The poker game didn’t appear to be a game, at all. Herrerías held the big blind, while Gonzalez, with only a pair of deuces, didn’t have the first idea of what to do, next.

The game dragged on for what seemed to be an eter-nity. Smoke hung, heavily, in the room. Nobody spoke above a whisper. The juke box was playing, “For The Times, They Are A’Changing.”  Anybody who was not directly involved in the poker game had, long ago, cleared out. No sense in catching a stray bullet.

Finally, the predictable outcome came to pass.  González sighed and folded his hand. He got up from the table, and he and his bodyguards slowly left the bar, while Herrerías counted his winnings.

The Showdown at The Insurgentes Corral was over. The union was busted, and Herrerías emerged as the triunfador of the season.

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