Hace siete años pise por primera vez en Chicago. El viaje dio pie a muchos otros que cambiaron mi visión de muchas cosas para siempre. En primer lugar, más allá de Hemingway, Picasso o Lorca fui consciente de la universalidad del toreo.
De Chicago a Nueva York. Eso son los dos núcleos de la afición en el Este de EEUU. En el Oeste hasta se dan corridas incruentas pero, una pena, carecen de las Jornadas Taurinas que con tanto mimo y dedicación organizan los miembros de los clubs taurinos. Lore Monnig y Guillermo Cannon son los grandes involucrados en la labor pero no le van a la zaga miembros destacados como el profesor Velázquez, Robert Weldon, Bob Harlow o, del que os hablo un poco más tarde, Johnny Cataneo.
En los últimos años han desfilado por Oak Park y Central Park Luis Francisco Esplá, Víctor Mendes, José María Manzanares y El Fandi. Este año la visita es algo más especial. Van Victorino Martín García y su hija Pilar Martín, mano a mano. Presente y futuro de la ganadería más importante de los últimos 50 años. No está en su mejor momento, renuncia a Madrid voluntariamente, no salió bien el experimento de los patasblancas, pero, aún así, ¿cuánto le debe la afición a quién cambió el rumbo de la Fiesta? Muchísimo. La mejoría de esta vacada es solo cuestión de tiempo. El declive de la Fiesta es quizá la guadaña que más acecha a este espectáculo y, precisamente por eso, es necesario dar una dosis extra de confianza, de crédito.
De 19 al 20 estarán con la afición de Nueva York. 22 y 23 en Chicago. Pasando un poquito de frío en la calle pero muy arropados por una entusiasta afición que entiende de embestidas.
Me llama la atención que todavía hay quien cree que solo en España sabemos de toros. Que esto de gustarte los toros tiene que ver con el sitio de naces o la localidad que pone en el carnet de identidad.
Los que queráis saber qué siente alguien con sensibilidad os recomiendo el siguiente homenaje de Johnny Cataneo, el mejor guía de Little Italy, ante los sanfermines de 2010.
In 1997, Maria and I decided we would go to Spain for our
Honeymoon the morning after our wedding, which was a year
away at that time. Maria had never been to Europe before
and having spent much of her childhood in Colombia, figured
a Spanish-speaking country might be a good place to get her
cross-Atlantic travel feet wet.
Our time in Madrid was unforgettable. There is a sensation
evoked by travel when nothing around you is familiar. People
dress differently, there’s some mystery to ordering food, and in
Spain there’s this ever-present black bull silhouette that seems
to serve as a reminder that you have no idea what actually goes
on here. So, if you’re like the a-typical good American traveler
you go about your tour of the Palacio Real and El Prado and try
not to look and act like you’re from….wherever you’re from in
That could certainly be enough of a vacation and it is for most
people, but as some other people choose, we decided to delve
just a bit deeper into the local culture and had the concierge
at the Madrid Ritz (remember: Honeymoon) get us a couple of
tickets for the bullfight that weekend.
It was a packed house on a San Isidro Sunday. Our more-
expensive-than-expected-seats were about fifteen rows or so
from the sand and everyone around us seemed dressed for a
night out in the city. Interesting.
When the bullfight started, I was surprised at what it was. I
was easily and immediately exhilarated and overwhelmed
by the spectacle and reverence of it all. While I knew no
better than to call it a “sport” at the time, I was taken by
the “performance” I was witnessing and learned to use the
latter term to this day. I was hooked right away.
The following Sunday, we found ourselves in Sevilla’s plaza de
toros box office buying tickets to see a young matador’s faena.
He was going by the name “El Juli”.
Geez, what a show. Absolutely unforgettable.
Taunting the bull from a kneeling position, waving off the other
members of his crew to handle the bull by himself…finishing to
a crowd waving white handkerchiefs and cheering a seemingly
purposeful call toward the people in the booth, whoever they
Two weeks passed and we went home, but it was too late: I
was “into the bulls”.
On our flight home, it occurred to me that we never got to
see people running alongside bulls as they charged down the
streets of the town. Did we miss that?
I asked Maria who always does her travel homework and she
explained about the Pamplona thing and the Fiesta de San
Sometime in 2002, we decided that the following year we
would go to Pamplona and I would participate to some non-
specific degree in the running of the bulls, whatever that
meant. I needed some information before we would go, but
also made all of our travel arrangements because we were
surely committed. Asking everyone with whom I came in
contact that year produced no experienced participant in this
event. Not one.
Until I learned of the New York City Club Taurino.
Suddenly, I had discovered others who shared my appreciation
for the corrida.
Well, maybe that’s not the right way to put it.
Some of these people REALLY knew what they’re talking about.
Even the most subtle of movements and nuances seemed to
speak to them. I just thought it was really cool, but had no
idea what made it good or had the potential to make things go
I’m beginning to understand.
Perhaps there is a beauty to the performance of the corrida
that elevates its place in the culture beyond what inevitable
and obvious tragedy is present that fuels its opposition.
This is what I need to get.
Is this what the corrida must bring to the table constantly if it
is to maintain an interest by the people?
There are layers to this I haven’t unfolded yet.
In July of 2003, I took my first trip to Pamplona with the
sole purpose of running with the bulls and enjoying another
rewarding faena. So I ran, then we scalped tickets for the
corrida later that afternoon. Over the years, I went on to attend
many other corridas during frequent travel to Madrid and
other Spanish cities.
In 2010, I ran for my fifth time with friends I’d made my first
day here seven years ago.
Fast forward again, please.
This past 8th of July, 2010, I had the unexpected good fortune
of being part of an homenaje arranged by Pamplona Hotel
Maisonnave’s General Manager, Esther Sanz Perez, her
professional partners and hotel owner Patxi Aleman. I must
admit I didn’t know what an homenaje was and learned very
quickly what “honor” was being bestowed upon our group.
Television camera crews were on site and microphones
recorded every word as the mayor of the city sat next to me
and spoke in a most respectful way of our organization’s
contribution to the culture of the corrida and the mundo
taurino, in general. Ms. Sanz-Perez invited the president of the
NYCCT, Lore Monnig, and me to sit next to herself and Mayor
Barcina at the dais of honorees. I had the honor of tying a silk
pañuelo embroidered with our logo around the Mayor’s neck
as photographers snapped away.
Ms. Monnig delivered a prepared speech in Spanish. Carlos
Gil recounted an experience with the NYCCT while visiting in
New York. And Mayor Barcina graciously acknowledged the
contributions to the corrida by a group of people living an
ocean away in a place where meetings are held in private just
to discuss the topic.
It was as hot and humid a day as any I’ve experienced in
Pamplona. Thank goodnesss the homenaje was held in a
private room with all the air conditioning we could ask for.
In attendance were some of the current most-notable bull
runners in town: Joe Distler, The Lombardo Brothers, Beave
Weaver, Martín Sundberg, Steve Ibarra, Rick Musica to name a
few. Also, the most respected writers and critics of the taurine
world we know today, such as Jose Antonio Del Moral.
The room was filled with people who speak much more
intelligently about the corrida than I may ever.
Foreigners outnumbered native Spaniards to declare their
appreciation of an art form deemed too controversial and even
barbaric by their communities back home.
To be a part of this was something of a revelation and in some
small way, a call to arms.
If the corrida and the breed of the Toro Bravo are to survive,
they must have the continued and growing support of people
like us who may not have had these things in our most
culturally formative years, yet have aficion by their merits
we’ve come to know later in life.
There are several taurine clubs around the United States and
we do our best to grow and remain solvent. Unfortunately,
for reasons that have actually revealed concerns for
personal safety, we conduct our highly social activities
with membership whose identities we don’t disclose and at
locations we can’t divulge.
Trust me, this is not an easy task. But I want to believe I am not
a unique person in this regard and that there are any number
of other novice enthusiasts out there who may represent the
future of our membership and participation.
And so it is left to word-of-mouth referrals by those who have
a general interest and active appreciation for the corrida to
support these groups closest to their own homes.
The point of this article is a simple plea to those who celebrate
the performance of what is unfortunately called “the bullfight”
in English or the multitudes of events involving the toro bravo.
Please get involved in a Club Taurino near to you or another
of your choosing. The art has growing vocal and political
opposition while its support network lies nearly dormant by
Social media is currently providing an access point to many of
these groups, and many of us are connected through others on
a more personal level.
Reach out. Make the effort. The corrida can continue to thrive
with the very necessary foreign support only you can provide.
New York City Club Taurino