by Lyn Sherwood
In all of the performing arts, crossovers of eras are sad things. The newcomers are good, and may become stars. But somehow, they play the roles of intruders, thieves of our youth, pretenders to the thrones of our heroes. How we still yearn to watch our retiring masters at their peaks. Those greats who provided us with so many memories, so many opportunities for nostalgic reflection. Their days of triumph. Their days of failure. Their gorings. Their smiles. Their idiosyncrasies. Their pain. Their glory.
Who are these impudent kids who would hope to replace them? How dare they?
Joselito Huerta, now 66 years of age, offered a nostalgic reflection of his previous greatness. The photo was taken a quarter century ago, when he was tearing up the crowds in Spain and Mexico.
Perhaps to see toreros begin, to grow, to mature, to discover stardom for a fleeting time, and then to fade away, provides too much evidence of our own vulnerability, our own mortality. We shared so much with them, and now they've forsaken us. And, somehow, with the passing of each, a part of ourselves retires with them. Life is indeed, brief and joy too transitory.
With those thoughts in mind, a festival featuring retired Spanish Matadors Rafaél de Paula, Joaquín Bernadó, and Curro Vásquez, and retired Mexican Matadors Joselito Huerta, Jaime Rangel, and Pepe López Hurtado performed, last Sunday, in Plaza Monumental de Tijuana. The affair was a charity event, benefiting former Spanish ace Vicente Ruiz "El Soro", the son-in-law of Sr. and Sra. Hernando Limón.
El Soro had been a highly rated matador when his legs began to fail him. Nowadays, he walks with great pain and a pronounced limp. Four of Sunday's bulls were dedicated to El Soro, while one went to his beautiful wife. Pepe López dedicated his animal to all of his compatriots.
The novillos were presented by Hernando Limón, and they were spectacular. Presented in a variety of colors, most were strong, and all were brave and noble. Although the trophies for such an affair are always awarded on a rather liberal note, most of the ears that were cut Sunday were deserved. And in actual count, the Mexicans triumphed over the Spaniards, with Pepe Lopez emerging as the triunfador of the day.
Very senior Matador Joselito Huerta opened the day with fine Veronicas Sevillanas to the 365-kilo "Poblano." He then presented a short, quality faena to both sides, accented by proper embellishments and adornments. After killing on the second entry, an ear was awarded.
Joaquín Bernadó then offered the cheering fans a grand performance with cape and muleta, providing evidence of the greatness that had been his when he performed in Tijuana in the mid-60s. Although he had troubles with the sword, his muleta work was outstanding. One ear.
With his novillo, the famous gypsy matador Rafaél de Paula lived up to his reputation of being either sensational or totally intimidated. In this action, the latter impression was evident. After giving some fine, opening Veronicas, de Paula wanted nothing to do with the third act, seemingly intimidated by the 345-kilo "Jerezano." After horn-to-horn work, he entered to kill, was caught and pummeled, and retired to the infirmary, where he was treated for bumps and bruises.
In the meantime, Huerta entered to deal with Jerezano, and offered several outstanding series on the left, running the hand long and demonstrating great temple. An ear was cut, which Huerta sent to the infirmary, for de Paula.
Jaime Rangel then demonstrated the abilities that had brought him fame, working well with cape and muleta, placing a good sword, and winning an ear.
Enter Curro Vásquez, who ignited the crowd with his artistry. If Nureyev were to be a torero, one could imagine that he would have performed as did Vásquez. The matador's cape and muleta work were deeply emotional and aesthetic. After killing on the third entry, he too was awarded an ear.
The last novillo of the day was for Pepe López Hurtado, whose cape work was a bit shaky, but who offered an enthusiastic faena to both sides. He killed on the first entry and was granted a pair of ears.
In all, it was a memorable, very nostalgic afternoon.
Guess what? Tijuana will have an Oreja de Oro corrida, after all. Six of the best matadors of the 1998 season will compete, Oct. 18, in the downtown El Toreo plaza de toros. Details, next week.