April 23, 1999


Bullfight World...
by Lyn Sherwood

Castañeda Shows His Mettle

He cut no ears. Yet, César Castañeda stole the show from his more celebrated counterparts, last Sunday, in Plaza El Toreo de Tijuana, with a demonstration of pure courage that had the crowd on its feet, screaming with a combination of joy and fear for the young matador's life.

The key to the afternoon was a poorly-presented herd of bulls from Cerro Viejo. Weighing from 460 to 510 kilos, the animals lacked casta and were filled with sentido. They were challenged by Leonardo Benitez, Federico Pizzaro, and Castañeda.



César Castañeda cut no ears, last Sunday, in El Toreo de Tijuana, but nevertheless stole the show with a terrifying faena to an extremely deadly bull.

The first bull, "Tijuanense," was brave and noble, but stupid, and rather simple. Its attack was honest. Tijuanense was greeted by Benitez with a set of decent Verónicas. Failing to rematar the series, he switched to several mediocre Chicuelinas, followed by a set of Tapatias to the horse. After the pic, Leonardo offered a set of acceptable Gaoneras.

His faena, concentrated almost exclusively on the right, had many moments of excellent technique. The sword placement was spectacular, and Plaza Judge Jaime Gonzalez awarded an ear.

Leonardo's second bull, "Centinela," a cárdeno oscuro, at 485 kilos, was greeted by acceptable Verónicas. After two excellent pics, the Venezuelan exchanged banderillas with Castañeda, with each matador acquitting himself quite well. But, in the faena, the animal was bronco, raising its head in the middle of each muletazo. Benitez complied, then killed on the second entry and was applauded.

Federico Pizarro offered a nice set of Verónicas to his first bull. After a long pic, the bull was smooth, but soso, and Pizarro's faena contained all of the excitement of a John Tesh concert. The matador gave plenty of passes, but he didn't torear. He never came close to domination. He killed with a very low sword and was applauded.

His second bull was a beautiful black, to which Pizarro offered a wonderful set of Verónicas, climaxed with the Media Verónica and a rebolera. But, as in his first performance, Pizarro worked mechanically, without emotion or intensity. The bull wasn't much, but it was better than Pizarro made it look. A good sword terminated the performance and Pizarro took a turn of the ring.

Castañeda opened with a larga cambiada on his knees, then progressed to a nice set of Verónicas and a series of good Chicuelinas. He then placed three pairs of banderillas in good form. But, his faena was the worst that this observer has ever seen from the Tijuanense. He didn't understand the bull. His timing was poor. He failed to run the hand. And, he made many errors, any one of which could have resulted in disaster. He compounded his muleta work with big problems at the supreme moment and heard an aviso.

Anxious to redeem himself, César received Misionero, the last bull of the day. At 510 kilos, with horns like an aurochs, the bull was manso and extremely dangerous. Castañeda's Verónicas were mediocre. He lost ground with each lance. He then invited Benitez to exchange banderillas. I could almost read the Venezuelan's mind as he seemed to say, "Gee, thanks, César. I needed this like I need a hole in my head." Nevertheless, both matadores survived the second act, but with great difficulty.

One might have anticipated that the faena would be quick and dirty, with no attempt to triumph. The toro presented a greater challenge than attempting to write a sequel to Titanic. But, César was determined to dominate it. He gave a heart-in-throat demonstration of genuine, honest courage, demanding and receiving explosive attacks from an animal that had evil intentions. He placed a good sword and would have cut an ear, if the puntillero had not raised the bull, twice.

Thus, concluded the opening day of the Tijuana bullfight season, one that was appreciated for the incredible courage and tenacity of a young man, named César.

TORO TOPICS

The next Tijuana corrida will be celebrated May 2, in the Bullring by The Sea, and featuring the international phenomenon, 17-year-old Julian López "El Juli," the most popular matador in the world.

*****

67-year-old Curro Romero registered a big triumph in the eight corrida of the spring fair in Sevilla. Performing to a packed house, the very senior matador cut two ears.

*****

Severe gorings are being recorded in Spain. A week ago, in Sevilla, Manuel Caballero was gored, but is recuperating in the hospital

And, in Madrid, over the weekend, Matador Rodolfo Nuñez received a grave goring, in the groin, from a bull of Millares.

*****

The world's highest paid matador, Julian López "El Juli" made his debut in Barcelona, last Sunday, cutting two ears from his second bull and leaving on the shoulders of the fans.

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