July 22, 2005

Bullfight World
By Lyn Sherwood

An Old Star, A Bright Star, and A New Star On Tap In Tijuana

A grab bag of toreros is on tap, July 31, in Plaza El Toreo de Tijuana. Manolo Arruza, who retired, several years ago, and is on the comeback trail, heads a card that also features current star Eulalio López “El Zotoluco” and an up-and-comer, Juan Antonio Adame, facing a herd of bulls from the Marrón ranch.

The rather controversial matador, “El Fandi,” leads the pack in Spain, having performed in 40 corridas, to date, winning 79 trophies. Enrique Ponce has 32 corridas and has won 35 ears, while Rivera Ordoñez has worked 26 afternoons and won 27 ears.

The 2005 Feria de San Fermín is in the books. The afternoon of July 14 closed the feria, with bulls of Victorino Martín presented to Pepín Liria (silence and applause), Luis Miguel Encabo (applause and strong ovation), and El Cid (silence and applause).

The awards for the feria have been announced, with the Fuente Ymbro ranch named the winner of the “Feria del Toro 2005” trophy. Bulls from the ranch were presented, July 13, for matadores Eduardo Dávila (vuelta and applause, with aviso); El Juli (ear and silence); and Miguel Angel Perera (ovation and ear).

One of the best bulls of the feria, according to Casa de Misericordia de Pamplona, was “Regidor,” #64, from the Jandilla ranch. Two ears were cut in the afternoon, one each for César Jiménez and Salvador Cortés. El Cid was given silence for his performance to his first bull, and heard ovations for his second lídia.

But, the best bull award was given to Alfonso Vásquez, for “Cazador,” which was fought by Dávila Miura, July 13.

The most artistic faena honor was afforded Salvador Cortés, who won an ear for his ear-winning lídia to a bull from the Jandilla ranch, July 11.

The awards for the best pic and best sword placement were vacated.

The Dusty Old Men and The Dusty Old Bars

Every taurine city has its own, dusty old bar, where the taurinos congregate to discuss toros and toreros past and present. It’s almost always located in some nondescript neighborhood, on some nondescript alley, where a solitary street light casts its dying glory upon the entrance to the ancient place.

The wooden floor is invariably covered with sawdust or wood shavings. But, the bar, albeit old and scarred, gleams as brightly as a new traje de luces. Yellowed bullfight posters and autographed photos adorn the walls. Here and there, a moth-eaten bull’s head stares, glassy-eyed and accusingly, upon those who frequent the place. Smoke hangs heavily in the air. The room smells like an old, blood-stained capote that has seen far too many ring wars.

Here, you’ll find an eclectic assortment of characters. Toreros who failed before they ever got started; old critics who haven’t written a line in years, but are still addressed by their nomes de plume; ex managers; bull breeders; aspiring youngsters, in quest of their own glories, but wise enough to remain silent before a congregation such as this.

The old ones tolerate the kids, but offer no encouragement, because before they can understand life, they must first understand death, for one is a portend to the other.

Here, one’s afición is measured in years. Anything less than a quarter century of involvement with the bulls invalidates one’s opinions. The chairs and stools of the ancient ones are reserved for them, at all hours. Their entrances always inspire another round of drinks and embraces.

They come together to share copas of wine or brandy, and to smoke black tobacco that, in later years, will impart a certain taurine raspiness to their voices, which in itself, makes their memories worth revering. They come together, these dusty, old men, to swap stories and lies about the unforgettable afternoons that they have seen and the toros and toreros who made them so.

All share an undying passion for the most passionate of all performing arts. But, each has his own theories about who does it, or of greater importance, who did it, best. “Bienvenida? He handled the cape as if it were a tablecloth. He wouldn’t have made a decent sword handler for Domingo Ortega!”

“Ortega? You’re insane! The real torero, the one who understood the bulls better than has anyone else, was Ordoñez!”

They speak of Manolete, Ponce, Arruza, Romero, Silverio, Armillita, Paquirri, El Juli, and Camino. Each is confident that his opinions are the only ones worthy of being interpreted in song and verse, for no other eyes have seen or been amazed by the miracles that he has witnessed.

Even when they agree about a torero, the old men disagree about that which made him great.

“His left hand! Never has there been such a natural!”

“But, what about his cape? Nobody in history has ever given such chicuelinas. Not even Chiquelo! And, his verónicas! Ah, his verónicas!  They were like a symphony.”

“Don’t overlook his sword. My God, what a volapié”

“And, his pase de la firma, and his pase de trinchera. Tremendous!”

Dominating the bulls in the arena is one thing. Dominating the fans in the stands is less difficult. But, dominating the thoughts of the dusty, old men in the dusty, old bars is the hardest task of all. And, in the era of tomorrow, when the old ones have been replaced by still other old ones, the names of the greats and that which made them great will live in their memories, on the yellowing posters, and in the sands of plazas de toros, throughout the universe of the bulls.

Ah, where and what would La Fiesta, both the Brava and the Nacional, be, without the dusty, old taurinos and the dusty, old alleys, those special places of worship in which truth and fiction walk mano-a-mano, embracing each other, even unto the rattle of death, where precious memories still live as if they had taken place only yesterday.

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