Ruedo Rage By Ricardo Delgado

Ruedo Rage 

By Ricardo Delgado

    After the death of Manolete, Luis Miguel Dominguín was left alone to shine in his own right. I saw him when I was barely ten months old, probably during his most brilliant season, back in September 1948. It was during the Feria ofValladolid, my home town, and according to my parents, that was my first ever corrida! 

    In a way, it was only natural afterwards for me to continue to visit the Plaza de Toros, since my family didn't lack afición and neither did we have far to travel to the ring; amere 150 yards of so from the place where we lived, and where I was brought up. 

    Later on, in the fifties and earliy sixties when I was in my teens, a gang of lads from the neighbourhood and I would regularly attend the bullfights, local soccer games, as well as the motorcyale road races featuring all the upcoming stars from those days. Sometimes we were able to procure invitaciones, a few times we paid for the tickets, but more often than not. we risked our necks trying to break past the doormen and the civil guards who sometimes tried to take potshots at us, while we tried to clamber over the shards of broken glass planted all along the tops of the 18ft. high walls which confined the bulls for the next corridas ifl their pens - an additional peril if we should have fallen! To get to the Plaza, we had to make our way along El callejón de los tramposos (Cheaters' Alley) which was a not very recommendable area inhabited by dropouls, gypsies and other unsavoury characters and which resembled the gloomy back streets of Whitechapel duting the reign of Jack the Ripper! For the soccer games, particularly the big matches against Real Madrid, Barcelona and so on, it would be the treacherous waters of the weir underneath the Hanging Bridge which we would risk to sneak in hrough the rear entrance of the old Zorrilla stadium. 

    Nevertheless, I can look back on those days with affection, passion and even envy. What an atmosphere there was when Manuel Benitez El Cordobés made his presentation as a novillero curing September 1961! Also on the cartel were Efraín Girón and Baldomero Martin, El Terremoto, "The Earthquake" from Malaga. Benitez once publically stated that the latter, who he referred to as El Majaron deserved to earn at least part of the millions that he himself was commanding; referring to the sheer raw madness and bravery displayed by the Malagueño - a firecracker! The bulls at the time may have been small, but they certainly charged and gave a great spectacle. 

    I spent four years from September 1962 until June 1996 studying in Córdoba, and there, I happened to see Manuel Benitez's altemativ a in the old A Los Tejares bullring which has since been replaced by a department store. It was during May of 1963 and a more frenzied and passionate taurine atmosphere has never been either before or since. I was able to get an invitación that day through a taurine schoolfriend of mine, whose father had business ventures all across Andalusia and who I believe knew El Pipo, Benitez's manager. The seal was high up in the andanada gallery, over the toriles on the opposite side to the toreros, but il didn't matter; we were there - and we were lucky, too, since tickets had been sold out completely for several months. Later on, when I went to my first Feria de Abril in Seville in 1964, I saw Manolo cut a tail during my first ever corrida in the Maestranza- thanks again to thekindness of these same friends. 

    In those days, whenever we could, we would bunk off and escape down to the Costa del Sol, which at the time was only just starting to bloom and was full of lovely miniskirted girls from abroad who we would sometimes even convince to come along to watch the corridas with us in Algeciras, Malaga, La Línea, or Marbella. They were great days, I can tell you! 

    At the old Los Tejares ring in Córdoba, and later, from 1965, in the new plaza, we would be regular visitors, especially at the novilladas. I saw Paquirri, (the only time, I believe, that he set foot in the old Tejares plaza), Palomo Linares, Monaguillo - you name them, I saw them all! 

    I dare say that neither Joselito, nor Belmonte, nor Manolete, nor even Ordóñez (much better toreros by far!) had the same impact on the taurine world as Manuel Benitez - El Pelos de Palma del Rio -had. As far as bringing crowds into tha plazas goes, and creating ambiente, Manolo has been the most important torero in history, you can take that as a fact. 

    My father used to talk about Marcial Lalanda and Domingo Ortega, who were his favourite toreros and I remember how he hated the snobbism of some aficionados when they talked about certain toreros de arte. He was a firm believer in the famaus phrase "Los toreros de valor a mandar, y los de arte a rellenar" (the toreros with bravery to lead and the artistic toreros to fill-in). He didn't say no to true art, such as that seen at times in Cagancho, who was his favourite torero de arte, in the same way that I myself cannot deny the touch of duende, all too seldom revealed, by Rafael de Paula or Curro Romero. No, I can never say no to this, and yet I have always leaned more towards toreros largos; "long" or complete toreros, dominating all the suertes. I once saw Miguelin sweep Antonio Ordóñez off thie ground during a mano a mano in La Línea, (strangely enough, Michael Wigram mentioned that same corrida in his recent article on the Maestro of Ronda!) Diego Puerta often outshining Camino, and Jaime Osios, El Viti or Paquirri doing the same thing to Curro Romero, Manzanares and others. It's funny - if you look back. Paco Camino never cut more than 2 ears in the Maestranza on one bull, nor did Manzanares; neither of them ever opened the Puerta del Principe in the so called Number One Plaza del Arte. When you consider this, it is remarkable that two of the last toreros who cut a tail there were Diego Puerta and Ruiz Miguel - both toreros de valor. How can people deny the importance of Ruíz Miguel, or, more recently, of César Rincón, (and, more recently. Tato and Liria) fighting those huge, complicated torazos of theirs, particularly in rings like Madrid, Pamplona, or Bilbao? Compare them to that other type of torero, with their studied mannerisms, only thinking about the aesthetic effect of the poses they strike, fighting shaved, undersized and often completely invalid animals; they need the toros de arte, as Juan Pedro Domecq calls his animáis. Real bullshit indeed! 

    La Maestranza and Sevilla (by far my favourite place in Spain, along with Ronda) deserves better. Curro Romero, Manolo Vázquez and Antoñete are perhaps the only exceptions which I can accept, because of the important performances they have given there and because of their consistency in Madrid over the years - even if I would rather see Paula and Curro in Jerez. Take the last 17 Seville Ferias from 1981 to 1996.1fithadn't been for the Paquirris, Espartacos and, last year, the duel between El Tato and Pepín Liria with those brave S anchez Ibarguen animals, we wouldn't have see anything. A few small isolated details from other toreros is not good enough for me! During last season, and apart from that one day during the Seville Fair (Tato and Liria are not normally favourites of mine) the only thing of any importance which I can recall seeing was Ponce with that memorable Valdefresno bull in Las Ventas. I hate to admit it, but I have been extremely disappointed withLa Fiesta of late; I would rather watch and visit the world of Road Racing, which has been my N° 1 passion since the 1950's. On a motorbike in the Isle of Man at 180 miles per hour, you are really risking your life at every second; sadly, nowadays the same cannot often be said in bullfighting. Otherwise, can you explain why a torero like Ordóñez once remarked that "to be a first class figura, you must be willing to really risk your life at least six or eight times a year?" - aiming for Madrid, Seville, Bilbao or some special occasion like the Beneficencia fight. What happens to all the other corridas that a torero fights during the season? 

    All my fellow aficionados have my deepest respect for your preferences; but in my opinion, every torero should ultimately be judged according to the type of bull he is facing.


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