October 8, 1999

Bullfight World...

by Lyn Sherwood

Tijuana Season Closes on a Note of Absurdity

Not too many years ago, bullfighting in Tijuana was only a distant reflection of what toreo is all about. Thanks to Plaza Judge Jaime Gonzalez, Tijuana bullfighting underwent an amazing, artistic metamorphosis. It became difficult to cut ears. The sunny side hedonists lost their dominance. Artistry and taurine integrity began to reign supreme. Things looked great!

But, that which passed for honest toreo in last Sunday's season closer represented a huge step, backward. The inmates took over that asylum known as Plaza el Toreo. Enrique Garcia projected all of the excitement and enthusiasm of a John Tesh concert. The otherwise fine, young Tijuana artist, César Castañeda reflected the phony, tremendistic style of Mayito. And, I have no idea what Jaime Gonzalez was smoking, but he seemed to have arrived at the plaza in a sleigh, drawn by eight tiny reindeer.

César Castañeda thrilled the crowd, but disappointed this observer, in the final corrida of the 1999 Tijuana season.

Garza and Castañeda, each cut ears, while Uriel Moreno "El Zapata" settled for applause. Yet, Zapata's labors represented the only bright spot in an otherwise forgettable afternoon.

The herd of bulls from Pilar Labastida, although filled with sentido and quick to learn the decent of the muleta, was one of the bravest and strongest of the year. One, Don Martin, without encouragement from any torero, made five honest entries to the picadores, and was still looking for horses when the act was changed.

Gerardo Trueba

The rejoneador was forced to deal with an animal from Julio Delgado, which had the personality of a turnip. Under the circumstances, Trueba worked professionally, but was unable to convince "Giraldez" to offer even the semblance of an attack. Trueba received polite applause.

Enrique Garza

Enrique Garza is competent, but dull. Nevertheless, when he's inspired, as he was last Sunday, he's still dull. His first bull, Don Marcelo, was a 480-kilo castaño salpicado, to which he gave wide Verónicas. The animal then received abusive pic'-ing, which didn't deplete its strength. Garza offered a quite of poorly-executed Chicuelinas Antiguas. The matador placed banderillas in acceptable fashion, but all to the same side and with no more style than any subaltern.

Garza's faena was decent, at least on the right, and was culminated with a disgraceful bajonazo. Petition for an ear was correctly denied, and the matador was applauded.

He opened with a Puerta Gayola and barely acceptable, wide Verónicas to his second bull, to which he placed banderillas, again from the same side. His faena was pure vanilla, tantamount to watching paint dry. But, he killed with one of the best estocadas of the season, for which he was awarded a pair of ears. A pair of ears for a sword placement? Jaime, did I miss something?

El Zapata

If Uriel Moreno ever learns to kill well, he's destined to become a true figura. He has integrity, personality, and great talent, but he loses far too many triumphs because of his inconsistency with the steel.

He opened with three largas cambiadas, followed be very good Verónicas to Don Jaime, a 475-kilo castaño. El Zapata placed the sticks very well. He then offered a varied, honest, hard-nosed faena to both sides, but screwed up with the sword and was limited to applause.

He opened with Verónicas Sevillanas (which is rather difficult for a torero as bow-legged as El Zapata) to the 490-kilo Millan. After two pics, with one overthrow, Moreno again placed banderillas in wonderful fashion. His faena de muleta was outstanding, the very best of the day to the worst toro of the day. He worked both sides with a brand of pundonor that went totally over the heads of the majority of the spectators. But, again, he needed three swords, thus losing at least a pair of ears. Or, in keeping with the liberal judging of the day, possibly a pair of hooves!

César Castañeda

It is understandable that a new matador who is anxiously searching for a top spot on the taurine ladder might resort to crowd-pleasing tremendismo. But, if the cost translates to prostitution of one's art, it's very hard to accept. And, César Castañeda's performances were simply unacceptable.

This observer has followed César's career for many years. He's a friend and a fine torero. But, his work last Sunday, was disgraceful. He received the excellent, 495-kilo Don Martin with good Verónicas. He then placed banderillas very well.

He began his work in the third act in good style, but his efforts quickly took on the look of a border tremendista. There were some decent derechazos, but he didn't even attempt on the left side. After killing on the third intent, he was applauded.

But with the last bull of the day, the Tijuanense's work was pure bologna. Opening with a pair of kneeling lances, he progressed to a nice set of chicuelinas. He didn't even attempt Veróni-cas. He spent most of his time on his knees, never tried on the left side, and thrilled the unsophisticated crowd. He climaxed the fraudulent faena with an accidental sword placement, and was awarded two ears! No Verónicas, no naturales, and an "excuse me" sword placement for two ears!

I realize, although disagree with the tradition that, with majority crowd petition, the judge must award the first ear. But, additional awards are the option of the judge. It is a total mystery to me that Jaime Gonzalez awarded the second ear. What performance was he watching? Certainly, not the same one that I saw!

Thus, the 1999 season ended. And, in its last corrida, it was Villamelones four, and knowledge aficionados, zip.


Barring any post-season performance by El Juli, that's it for 1999 in Tijuana. Next week, we'll review the season, torero-by-torero, and name the best of the year.

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