Lascaux Cave Painting, Approximately 12,000 B.C.
. . . irresistible only to those for whom it is irresistible, that is.
In my entry of October 6, I refered to a “minor league Mexican bullring.” Mexico itself is not minor league. The ring in Mexico City is the largest in the world seating somewhere around 45,000 to 55,000 people. Apparently, no one knows for sure.
The Spanish and Mexican matadors at the top fly back and forth to perform, for example, in the Plaza de las Ventas in Madrid, the Plaza de la Real Maestranza in Seville, the oldest bullring in Spain, and in La Plaza México. I watch them perform here on La Mexicana’s television commencing at 4:00 on Sunday afternoons.
Plaza de Toros de Acho in Lima was constructed in 1766. It is contended that it is the oldest surviving bullring in the world, although apparently no one knows that for sure either.
The format of the novillada on Sunday was not the traditional one involving six bulls and three toreros. Novillada implies apprentices facing younger bulls. These can take any number of formats. The feature of the one on Sunday was the mano a mano, or head to head (“hand to hand” literally) competition, between Paolo San Roman and Rodrigo Hernandez facing two bulls each. The opener was a true novice, a young man from San Miguel named Francisco Martinez, facing one bull.
We arrived early on Sunday to enjoy the crowd filtering into the ring. People watching. I prefer to buy cheaper seats in the sol section, meaning in the sun. This can be downright brutal in the late afternoon sun of Spain. The privileged sit in the sombre section, in the shade. It is in the sol seats that the Marxist’s dream comes true, students and workers united. I do indulge myself with seats in the front row having through the years slowly moved from the top down to the bottom. La Mexicana is game for all of this herself, which is one of the reasons why she is a good companion at the corrida.
Early on and well before the parade of the toreros into the ring, we were joined in the first row by four boys. They had determined to upgrade their seats informally in the great anarchist tradition. I do not have any problem with that having informally upgraded my own seating in the past in such places as Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Busch Stadium. Their parents and older brothers and sisters remained in seats above us.
It’s a family affair. Right click and enlarge any of these small images to see what I mean.
La Mexicana mothered all four of them, but she was particularly taken with the shy, quiet Ulysses. With the permission of their parents, I sprang for buckets of popcorn sprinkled with hot sauce, popsicles, potato chips doused in hot sauce in the tall, thin cellophane bags, and the brown sticks, which look like pretzels but are definitely not pretzels, in the same tall, thin cellophane bags .
Mateo, Diego with his popsicle, Ulysses, and Omar.
In the course of the late afternoon and early evening the six of us together watched as five bulls were killed, two of them by a young woman.
Poala San Roman was masterful with her last bull, an extraordinarily brave one approximately the size of a locomotive. Suffice it to say at this point that she won over the crowd in what I would consider an unusual way. She then of course walked around the perimeter of the ring to acknowledge their cheers. They were throwing wine botas, hats, shoes, seat cushions into the ring at her feet. When the matador is a male who has succeeded splendidly, it is not unusual to see ladies’ undergarments tossed out there.
I was distracted, standing and applauding. Before I noticed what was afoot and could stop them, young Mateo and Diego had both taken off their hats and sailed them into the ring at her feet. After scrambling around, I was able to retrieve their hats with the help of some people down there.
Let us just for a moment set aside the cultural differences that cause this spectacle to repulse so many of us up north. Consider these two boys at this impressionable age throwing their hats at the feet of a young lady who had just performed brilliantly at one of the most macho of human endeavors.
That is a good thing, I think.