October 12, 2007

Bullfight World
By Lyn Sherwood

Debate Over the Puerta Gayola

The latest subject of debate among aficionados involves the Puerta Gayola. Basically, the matador places himself on his knees in front of the toril gate. His cape is spread out on the sand, in front of him. The gate opens and the bull comes storming into the plaza. The matador cites the toro, and performs a kneeling lance, either the more dangerous, two-handed farol de rodillas, or the more simple, one-handed larga cambiada. It usually puts the crowd into a frenzy.

But, is it as dangerous as it appears? The bull has been kept in a mostly dark environment. Suddenly, as the gate opens, he is exposed to a huge crowd, music, noise, and something that’s flapping a cape in front of him. He can’t yet see too well, but the flapping cape looks inviting and he attacks it.

Manuel Lizardo doing a porta gayola in the Plaza de Toros Juriquilla. The bull ignored the movement of the cape and ran over the matador, breaking his leg.

“Hmmm, that looks interesting. I think I’ll kill it.”

The matador inverts the capote to the underside and passes the bull to one side or the other. The fans go crackers.

There have been some horrendous injuries, and a few deaths, recorded while a matador was attempting to perform the Puerta Gayola. But, it is of far lesser danger than are the other parts of the lídia. And, it’s comparatively simple to do.

But, the debate and its comparative danger continues.


Sunday, Oct. 7 in the “Beautiful Bullring by The Sea” marked the penultimate bullfight of the 2008 summer season. Four bulls from San Martin and two from Venta del Refugio were presented to Fernando Ochoa, José Maur-icio, and Eulalio López “El Zotoluco.” Gary Sloan reports the action.

El Zotoluco opened the afternoon with the 450-kilo “Marispy.” The matador attempted to work with the cape, but the bull refused to cooperate. It was a similar story in the third act, with the bull negating any effort to attack honestly. El Zotoluco killed and was applauded for his efforts.

He fared better with the capote with his second bull, a 475-kilo animal that had no name. El Zotoluco did a few nice Veronicas that were crowed with the media Veronica. His faena was well done and he had the crowd supporting him as he worked to both sides. But, poor sword work denied him any consideration for awards.


With his first toro “Feliz Aniversario” (445 kilos), Fernando Ochoa opened with smooth Veronicas that were capped with a fine media Veronica. With the muleta, he performed well linking smooth passes on both sides. After a good sword he was awarded a turn of the ring. The subtle quality of his work had gone over the heads of most of the fans.

His second bull, “Don Borja” allowed Ochoa to open with more good Veronicas and the media, all very well done. His faena de muleta was even better than his first performance as he encouraged low, slow, linked passes, demonstrating great temple, especially on the left hand side. But the ears that he would have earned were lost when his sword failed him. He was applauded.

Then, the taurine gods chose to smile on young José Mauricio. His first bull, “Frijulitos,” a wonderful animal promised triumph from the time that it entered the ring. The matador greeted it with great Veronicas, cargando la suerte and finished with a Larga Cordobesa, allowing the capote to swirl through his hands, ending up over one shoulder as he strode away to a thunderous ovation.

When the picadors entered, Mauricio brought the bull to the horns with capotazos de brega, turning him in with a serpentina. Frijulitos was brave against the horse.

Then, in the third act, the crowd was treated to a grand performance that began with three consecutive péndulos and high passes, without moving from his position on the sand. When Mauricio gave the third péndulo, he was only six feet away from the bull. As this suerte normally calls for a charge from a longer distance, the matador was still able to pull it off.

Then, his faena really got good. Mauricio did it all with this wonderful toro, linking muletazos to both sides, accenting each set with appropriate adornments. The in-dulto petition began, but the judge refused to grant it. Unfortunately, that proved to be his undoing. He suffered terrible luck with the steel and heard two warning avisos. The bull and the matador were both applauded.

He attempted to redeem himself with his second bull, but the animal wasn’t close to the quality of his first. He had some good moments but nothing that would remotely compare to his first performance.

And, so the day came to an end. No ears had been awarded, but the aficionados would remember Mauricio’s first lídia for a long time.

The traffic at the border was horrendous. However, as usual, the “Five Star Tour Bus” made the trip nearly painless and there was no pedestrian line.

The last bullfight of the season, Nov. 14, is expected to attract a large crowd to see Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza, the greatest rejoneador (horseback torero) in the world alternate with José Rodriguez “Pepe Hillo” and a third matador who has not been announced.

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