DESDE MÉXICO XXV
Los Novilleros & More Festejos en el Interior

Mike Penning

LOS NOVILLEROS

Since returning from Spain at the beginning of June, we have seen some 11 corridas and novilladas, in venues where the ambiente has generally been more exciting than the taurine event. We have visited La Florecita four times and found a number of interesting festejos in Pachuca, Apizaco, the Arroyo in Tlalpan, Caxuxi, Tulancingo, Ecatepec and Dajiedhi. The latter, on 10th August, was the first taurine event ever staged in that pueblo.

Whilst the usual summer routine of novilladas on Saturday in the Plaza de Toros (Restaurante) Arroyo and novilladas on Sunday in the Plaza México has been cancelled, a number of novilladas have been put on in major plazas and portatiles thoughout the Republic. The problem with this is that there appear to be groups of three or four novilleros appearing together rather too frequently and, whereas there are currently some very interesting novilleros who are really developing oficio, the new crop are being promoted over them, including a number of total hypes. A novillero cannot make it by simply being fino; an element of bullidor has to be present to ensure that contracts are landed. Some of the Niños Toreros are good and some have absolutely no talent, but what is difficult to ascertain is whether the talentless ones can become really good because of the amount of contracts, and hence the practice, they are getting. The pity is that some toreros with obvious talent have to take the long slow route, which often leaves them by the roadside.

In Pachuca the plaza was full of banners announcing the new great hope, Miguel Ángel Roldán from, of course, Pachuca. He didn’t have a clue. Jorge Sotelo, who I mentioned in my last article, has improved slightly, with a great deal of practice, and is being vamped as the Niño Maravilla de Morelia. The worst of the lot is Joaquín Álvarez ‘Joaquinillo’, and he is on everywhere. Meanwhile, of last year’s crop of good novilleros, only Aldo Orozco and Jacobo Hernández, are in the top ten of the Escalafón Taurino. This leaves the very good Mariano del Olmo and my favourite, Orlando Huerta, still struggling.

The three original Niños Toreros are now looking very good indeed, but have not got into the top ten. Oddly, Jorge Sotelo, who is in No.1 position, fights erales con picadors, as do the Niños. Two of the three novilleros who are filling the plaza in Puebla are in the top ten: they are Jésus Luján and Gustavo García Solo. They have a great deal to offer and could bring back the public to the toros, but the best of the three is Omar Villaseñor from Morelia, who really should be called the Niño Maravilla de Morelia. His left hand passes are slow and low, leaving little room between him and the toro.

Of the three Niños Toreros, Hilda Tenorio is my favourite. Her verónicas and muleta work are very good as she gets on the left and performs some deep naturals. Little Joselito Adame is still the star, exhibiting a more bullidor style of toreo and killing well. Then there is Juanito Chávez, who I used to think was just filling the card, but, in his last appearance, he demonstrated a very elegant style of toreo de arte and was finally noticed by the afición.

Finally, there are five more interesting novilleros. The first is Juan Luis Silis who has lots of duende and could hail from Sevilla. Certainly, they would like his verónicas and media there. Second, José Gómez ‘Palomo’, who I said connected well with the public when he took his hair out of his eyes. The third is a totally newcomer called Aaron Rodríguez, who has so much oficio that, when I asked him how he had learnt so much without appearing in the plaza, surprised me by saying it was by facing the toros in the ganaderías. Salvador López and Manolo Olivares have style, but are both very green.

I count that as being 15 novilleros worth watching as opposed to, say, five matadors de toros: Armillita, Alejandro Amaya, Jorge Gutiérrez, Alfredo Gutiérrez, Mario del Olmo and Miguel de la Hoz. This is why I like to go to the novilladas. You can imagine my delight to read that the novillada in Santa Clara (half an hour away) on 24th August will feature Juan Luis Silis, Jésus Luján, Aaron Rodríguez and Orlando Huerta.

La Florecita - Cd. Satélite

The last of the novilladas de oportunidad was held on 8th June, and on 22nd June the Temporada de Verano began. The plaza was nearly full for the first novillada of the Verano and there was a good turnout for the second novillada with the Niños Toreros, but the repeat of the cartel of the first novillada did not even manage a half plaza. The Temporada de Verano has been suspended and will now wait until September. This is a great shame as, with such a small plaza, it was possible to meet up with nearly all of the afición of Mexico City and environs.

Sunday 8th June - Aaron Rodríguez – a revelation; Orlando Huerta – good but unlucky with the sword; Jorge Delijorge – totally hopeless; Manolo Olivares – very interesting; Joaquinillo – awful; Salvador López – very interesting again. Good novillos from El Vergel.

Sunday 22nd June – Atanasio Velázquez – solid but lacking personality; Juan Luis Silis – something a little special with this dark-eyed duende; Aldo Orozco – very professional but could get left behind, losing trophies with the sword. Novillos from Brito with great presence but not easy to torear.

Sunday 6th July – Niños Toreros: Hilda Tenorio – excellent; Joselito Adame – very good; Juanito Chávez – rather special estilo de arte. Novillos de Montecristo generally toreable.

Sunday 13th July – Repeat with Atanasio Velázquez – better than before, but still with little personality; Juan Luis Silis – definitely interesting; Aldo Orozco – good but still struggling with the sword. The Brito novillos again had great presence but gave plenty of problems for the novilleros to solve.

Pachuca and Apizaco

The novillada of 15th June in Pachuca contained nothing to remember. Jose María Requena from Murcia, Spain, was a little more polished than Miguel Ángel Roldán of Pachuca and Ramón Olvera, but none of them were worth the 90-minute drive to Pachuca (I shall not even mention the novillos of Alfredo Gómez Alanis). What did make it worthwhile was the visit to the café El Ingles to eat Cornish Pasties. Apparently a number of Cornish tin miners went to Pachuca to mine the local metal and brought the meat and potato pastie with them. You can have them with green mole (sauce) red mole or tinga (another sauce), but the best are, without a doubt, the original meat and potato pastie. They can be bought by the roadside whilst returning from Pachuca, Caxuxi, Actopan, Dajiedhi and many other venues. This was an excellent find.

The novillada in Apizaco on 21st June was poorly attended as dark clouds gathered over the plaza Monumental de Apizaco. There were 6 novillos from Arroyo Hondo and 2 erales from La Herradura for the niño, Jorge Sotelo. Jose María Requena from Murcia looked very sullen and his haughty attitude produced nothing. Jose Gómez ‘Palomo’ put everything into his performance and certainly was the best of the afternoon. He won me over. The local "El Rifao" was cheered by a small group of followers, but was far too green to be judged properly. He cut an undeserved ear. Then came the Maravilla de Morelia. Except for posing and bossing around his (shared) cuadrilla, he really has little to offer the afición. As he had the last animal of the afternoon, we took the opportunity of getting on the road back to Mexico City early, not that any D.F. aficionados attended the festejo.

A WET SATURDAY NIGHT IN TLALPAN

There was nothing on at all over the last weekend in June. The only thing we could find was a festival in the Restaurante Arroyo on the Saturday night 28th June. We arrived early enough, but were told that there were no tickets for sale as the festival was by invitation only in honour of the election candidate Pedro Haces of the Green Party, who was hoping to be elected as the delegation chief of Tlalpan.

The CTL card produced a great deal of interest for everybody except the ticket collector. The 6Toros6 salesman told the stone-faced man that we were English aficionados seen in most Mexican plazas but no deal. Then the cuadrillas started to turn up. The saludos and abrazos we received from them didn’t cut any ice, and, when the young banderillero, Diego Martínez arrived, he said that he would arrange something with Alfredo Gutiérrez. He came back out of breath to advise us that we should go in by the restaurant entrance and walk round. Sadly, his advice was overheard by stone-face who sent somebody off to block that entrance. Just as Janice said that she was getting too cold, our adversary smiled and beckoned us in. We found a couple of good seats and were joined by the novilleros Salvador López and Rodrigo Muñoz ‘Niño de Tlalpan’. The plaza filled up completely and we sat there waiting to be turfed out. Without tickets we could be vulnerable, and not only that but my ticket book would sport a gap at number 1199. Luckily, I managed to persuade Rodrigo to part with his ticket. The beer was free but inaccessible.

After what seemed like hours of speeches, worse than the pre-novillada mass, the festival began with rejoneador Octavio Sánchez and los Forcados de México. The toros were from various ganaderías, but I didn’t take notes. This was virtually Mario del Olmo’s comeback and he was very good indeed, cutting one ear. Juan Salvador could be very good but appears to have lost his way. He took a vuelta. The star was Alfredo Gutiérrez, who I usually like but who could not slow down the passes. Rodrigo was surprised that I liked Mario del Olmo more on this occasion, as Alfredo Gutiérrez had cut two ears. We had discussed toreros together at La Florecita only the week before and his response to my preference for Alejandro Amaya was that he was good but fought with a Spanish style. I stopped myself from saying that it was not just a matter of style but also proficiency and schooling.

Except for the lack of a beer, we had enjoyed the festival very much. Most of the crowd moved towards the restaurant where a free buffet was being served to the guests. It didn’t look bad and our novillero friends were tucking into some interesting plates of Mexican specialities. We had already prepared supper and, although late, we were determined to arrive home warm and dry.

ON AND BEYOND THE ROAD TO PACHUCA

Caxuxi – 20th July

The countryside near Actopan is very beautiful. The green valley is surrounded by a series of spectacular hills and mountains. Caxuxi, which nestles in this fertile valley, is very small but has a plaza de toros, built some 40-odd years ago in lower Caxuxi, which is split from upper Caxuxi by the new carretera. A man in a shop where tickets were being sold suggested that we bought from him with a preventa discount and to get in to the plaza at least an hour early to ensure that we got a seat. We took his advice on both counts, buying the tickets and, taking an open-air lunch of tacos pastor, we arrived at the plaza an hour early to join a fast- growing queue at the entrance. We managed to find somewhere in what would be taken as the barrera de sol, as the seats filled around us, hasta la bandera. Apparently many ticket holders were left outside.

The bulls from Lebrija were noble but weak and, for me, the rest of the cartel was weaker. Manolo Mejía produced some slow half passes on his super-noble second to cut an ear, but Rafael Ortega could not find his ear-cutting form. The only real hope was José María Luevano who also cut an ear off his second, but he was very poor, exhibiting his penchant of producing toreo pueblarino. We were invited to have a barbacoa with my son Edward’s neighbour and pay a visit to a girlie bar, but Sunday is followed by Monday, which means the start of five more days of work.

Tulancingo – 2nd August

Arriving in Tulancingo late, we had difficulty finding the Recinto Ferial, where the plaza portatil had been erected. We had to park a long way from the fair ground (20 pesos, GBP = 17.2 pesos), then pay to enter (15 pesos) and finally, find the plaza (only 50 pesos). We found a good spot on the barrera in time for the paseillo.

The novilleros were Pedro Rubén and José Gómez Palomo and the novillos came from San José de Buenavista. The ganadero was sitting near to us with his family, including an extremely lovely girl. I told Edward to chat her up whilst I clapped the novillos in the arrastre and shouted "TORO" when Pedro Rubén struggled with a fine specimen. In the event, the girl was not the ganadero’s daughter, but he came over and introduced himself when they left, as did another of his companions, who gave us a very warm welcome to his city. He was none other than the mayor of Tulancingo.

Pedro Rubén did nothing all afternoon, wasting a very good opportunity, but was satisfied with a vuelta. Palomo pulled out all the stops as usual. He is beginning to look quite professional, cutting three ears and not two as reported.

Ecatepec – 3rd August

We had gone to the corrida announced for Sunday 27th July but, after buying tickets and lunching on the usual fairground food of tacos pastor and choriqueso, we made our way back to the plaza portátil, when the heavens opened. We sat it out in the car, but eventually the corrida was suspended. I queued in the rain to get my money back, but was eventually told that the ticket could be swapped for an entrada next week.

Therefore on 3rd August we were back in Ecatepec. Old tickets were exchanged for new ones and we met up with the Plaza México’s Porra Libre Group. We normally share a cuhuama of beer at home, in two pint pots, but, in the fair, a whole cuhuama was served as a michelada (with lemon, ice and chile powder around the rim) or on its own. It was too much beer by far.

The plaza was full for a cartel of Armillita, El Zotoluco and Chilolo with weak but noble bulls of Vaca Hermanos. Miguel Armillita should never have gone to Ecatepec: no more than should Curro Romero. The crowd came to see the daring of El Zotoluco and the tremendismo of Chilolo. Armillita did not get ovacion as reported unless in Mexican Spanish that means whistles. Chilolo was totally lackluster but El Zotoluco gave them what they wanted. Total entrega, he knocked off hundreds of right hand passes to much applause. His flawed killing did not stop him being awarded 4 ears. A bad afternoon for the aficion.

Dajiedhi – 10 August

Incorrect spelling in the newspapers made it very difficult to find Dajiedhi (Dajiendhi) on the map but it was even harder finding San Salvador. Both are in Hidalgo, but there are three El Salvadors in that state. I eventually made a magnificent discovery, the web page of www.maps-of-mexico.com. Both Dajiedhi and San Salvador were close to Caxuxi and Actopan, so it was a matter of choice, which we should see.

The original cartel in San Salvador had been Miguelete, Jésus Luján and Marín Herrera. I fancied seeing Luján but I had read that he was on in Huamantla, so wouldn’t show. We arrived in San Salvador just before 4:00 pm but the plaza was a wreck and nobody knew what was on, only that it would start in 10 minutes.

We swiftly moved off to Dajiedhi and, although it was not exactly where the map said, we eventually found it. The novillada was starting at 4:30 pm or maybe 5:00 pm. We bought tickets at the preventa price (50 pesos instead of 70) and headed off to the fair to find some eats. Lunch comprising two plates of chicken with rice and green mole with a couple of beers was excellent and came to all of 58 pesos.

On returning to the plaza portátil, we found a queue waiting to get in. This was the first taurine event ever to be held in Dajiedhi and a good crowd turned up. We spotted Edward’s friend from Caxuxi, so we sat together on the barrera. Straight back to Mexico City again tonight……..ah, OK. The invitation forwarded in our last meeting was still open. A local trader, whose presence was made known to everybody during the proceedings, had organized the novillada. He must have thrown his hat into the ring at least 50 times and it was finally in such a mess that he gave it to one of his workers.

The novilleros were, Elizabeth Moreno (an attractive woman who must have been into her thirties); Pedro Rubén, whom we had seen last week in Tulancingo; Alejandro Luna from Caxuxi; and José Gómez ‘Palomo’. The four novillos were from the ganaderia of El Sauz. Elizabeth Moreno’s animal fell over frequently, but it really did not make much difference to her performance. Perhaps her muleta was slightly better that her capote, but she could not kill. She took a vuelta anyway. Pedro Rubén was bad again but cut an ear, and Alejandro Luna was simply a mess. It was obvious that he had never received any training and unfortunately he was left to face the largest and most difficult of the novillos. It was left for Jose Gomez "Palomo" to save the day. He gave another professional performance and again cut two ears.

We stopped off for our Cornish pasties, which we ate with homemade baked beans when we got home. Better than Heinz 57, which are not available in Mexico.

PLAZA MÉXICO UPDATE

The latest news in the saga of the Plaza México has been reported on the web and 6Toros6, but for those that have not read about the latest developments, here is a summary.

The proposed changes to the D.F. Reglamento had been presented to the Secretaría del Gobierno del Distrito Federal by the empresa of the Plaza Mexico, Dr Rafael Herrerías on 12th June, but this was followed by silence.

Meanwhile, Enrique Martín Arranz arrived in Mexico to sue Herrerías for forging his signature on the contract for the appearances of José Tomás and Joselito. This was greeted with disdain by the good Doctor: "How dare a Spaniard come to my country and make such accusations (everybody copies signatures here anyway)". Then the Association of Abono Holders decided that they would also sue Herrerías for not complying with the elenco of toreros to appear in the Plaza México, namely the non-appearance of José Tomás.

Whereas the matadors’, subalternos’ and empresas’ unions basically agreed with the suggested changes to the regulations, the ganaderos did not. But somehow this all changed in a big meeting with all concerned; the ganaderos agreed with the amendments and Herrerías apologized to a ganadero for being rude and accepted that the Plaza México could open very soon. It was calculated that, because of certain legal requirements, the plaza could not open until 31st August. A number of novilleros were named as part of the possible elenco and it was announced that Xavier Ocampo was already contracted for the first novillada. I met Xavier yesterday in Huamantla and he confirmed to me that he would be fighting in the Plaza México on 31st August. I hope that he is better than the last time Peter Bell and I saw him in Queretaro.

El Juli has said that he is not coming to México this temporada and Enrique Ponce is definitely banned from appearing in the Plaza México until April 2004. Manzanares and El Capea are the only contenders so far, plus César Jiménez. I am not unhappy about the lack of El Juli or Ponce. I would like to see both, but I can get a much better entrada when Joselito or Morante are on. However, there is still time for anything to happen.

PICTURES

29nov03