May 032005

(Photos from this entry can be found here: Chicano Park 35 years, Tijuana Bullfight.)

First things first. Two weeks ago Anna and I went to the shindig for 35 years of Chicano Park. It was as we expected; lowriders, music, and street fair vendors. In other words, a good time.

While there we ran into some guys we recognized from other events. They make and sell t-shirts of their art and photos, including those from the bullfights in TJ. We started talking and they told us about the season opener on May 1st that featured ‘El Juli’. Supposedly one of the best matadors in the world. Their enthusiasm planted a seed that eventually sprouted with us hopping on the trolley for TJ on Sunday.

It was fairly easy to get there – we walked across and grabbed a cab to the bull ring. TJ has two rings, one downtown, and another right by the border and the sea. La Playa – you can see a picture of it here (love this photo), courtesy of the California Coastal Records Project. Coming back from the fight was a bit tougher. You could take the MexiCoach for 5 bucks, or try for a cab. The cabs were scarce (police were leaning on them for some reason) but we managed to split a cab with a Portuguese couple who told us about some interesting american-portuguese bull fights.

This was my first time to a bull fight. Though I had read up on it, it was still nice to have some guys next to us that could explain the little bits. The rough idea is that there is 3 matadors with 2 helpers each and 6 bulls. The bull comes out, and 3 guys dance with it for a little bit. Then the picadores (guys on blinded, padded horses with spears) come out and stab the bull in the neck to get it to drop its head. After that, one guy uses six brightly colored spears to weaken the neck some more. And finally the matador comes out with a red cape and sword. They tire the bull, then pull some risky moves before finishing the bull with a curved sword.

Nothing goes exactly to plan, and this day was no different. The bull took one of the picadores down, but everything seemed to be ok once they got the horse back up. The first fighter lost his cape a couple times (bad thing to loose your composure), but did a clean kill. The second fighter was El Juli. Again one of the picadores went down. He seemed to be slacking, and did not make a clean kill. The crowd ripped him a new one. The third fighter was a gutsy kid, he did some moves and got to run a victory lap.

With the next round of bulls, the first fighter did better but didn’t have a clean kill. El Juli had something to prove, so he did some amazing moves and had a clean kill. The crowd loved it and he got two ears and a victory lap. The 3rd guy came out for the last bull. The bull was too unpredictable and the crowd threw seat cushions to mark their disapproval. The judge ordered a new bull for him. After that he pulled some daring stunts and had the crowd going, unfortunately he did not make a clean stab with the sword. After the match everyone threw seat cushions. Hah.

It was an interesting experience, but I doubt I’m going to be buying season tickets. If I ever want to throw seat cushions, I know where to go. The part that was the strangest to me was the picadores – I didn’t expect to see the bulls take them & the horse down 3 times. I think the horses have the worst job ever: “Hey horse, we are going to blindfold you, then stab a bull so it rams you a bunch. Sound good?”

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