RECEIVING THE 2006 O.P.
HOUSTON AWARD FROM NATC:
Last year, in April, 2005, when I was in Seville attending the Feria de Abril corrridas I called my wife Sally, who had stayed home in Maryland, to touch base. Among other things she told me that she had read a note in the newsletter of the Club Taurino of New York that came in the mail reporting that Rose Prebil, the president of the Peña Taurina Sol y Sombra, had nominated me for the 2006 O.P. Houston Award of the National Association of Taurine Clubs of the United States of America (NATC).
I was pleasantly surprised to learn this news but, at the same time, I was confused because, although I have friends among the members of this club, I was neither a member of the club nor had I participated in its activities, other than having given permission for some of my writings to be published in its newsletters, and also having attended with wife the NATC Congress in Zacatecas, Mexico, that Sol y Sombra sponsored in 2003. I asked Sally for clarification of the notice, because, for a moment, I thought that the club that was nominating me was the Taurine Bibliophiles of America, of which I have been a member for many years. Sally assured me that her information was correct.
A few days later at a tertulia in Seville, I chatted with Lore Monnig, President of the New York City Taurine Club, who was on her way to Jerez de la Frontera (Cadiz), where her club was sponsoring the 2005 NATC Congress to be held in that town from May 3 to May 8. Lori told me that she had received official information about my nomination for the award.
Later, sometime in May, when I was back in Maryland I received an official communication from Hugh Hosch, the Secretary of the NATC, letting me know that the delegates to the 2005 NATC member clubs at the Congress in Jerez had voted in favor of my nomination. He also added in his letter that the O.P.Houston Award would be presented to me at the 2006 NATC Congress, hosted by the taurine club Los Aficionados de Los Angeles, to be held in Aguascalientes, Mexico, from April 20 until April 26, 2006.
But before going on with this narration, for those readers who might not be familiar with the organization and its award, I will define the terms NATC and O. P. Houston Award” which appear in my title.
Several taurine clubs have existed in the United States for a long time, each one acting independently of the others, until 1962 when the president of the Peña Barrera Taurina from El Paso, Texas, Edmundo de Anda, advanced the idea to form a federation of those individual clubs with the intention of coordinating the peñas’ activities and to promote the aficion for bullfighting in the United States. The idea came to fruition in 1963 with the foundation of The National Association of Taurine Clubs of the United States of America. This is the existing umbrella organization that unites most of the American taurine clubs. Since its foundation, this organization has held an annual congress in different cities of the United States, Mexico, France or Spain, with the goals of dealing with business matters related to the clubs, and of offering members the opportunity to participate in taurine events, socialize and get acquainted with the local aficionados from the place where the convention is taking place. Also, in one of the acts of the congress, the O. P. Houston Award and other prizes are granted to individuals who have distinguished themselves in their service to their clubs, or in their efforts to promote the Fiesta Brava in the United States.
The best way to define the meaning of the O. P. Houston Award is to copy here the inscription on the award that was granted to me at the 2006 NATC Congress in Aguascalientes, México. It reads:
National Association of Taurine Clubs of United States of America
O.P. HOUSTON AWARD
Conspicuous Achievement in the World of Tauroamquia
This award is given to a person, who during the lifetime of the NATC has contributed exemplary service to the Taurine World and has conveyed to others an enlightened view of the history and art of La Fiesta Brava.
Not only was I surprised by being nominated by a club with which I have had little contact, but also by the fact that the representatives of the American taurine clubs selected me for this prestigious award. I was not aware that whatever I did in promoting the art of bullfighting in the United States, and letting the world know about the existence of a dedicated and active small American aficion was appreciated.
Whatever I did to merit the O. P. Houston Award did not constitute effort, but most certainly was a labor of love. I did it with the only purpose of calming the aficion that inflames me. I did not expect that it would be considered something special. Nevertheless, informing about the art of bullfighting as an amateur speaker and a writer, I have been trying to influence people to feel the same intense love for toreo that I felt for it as a torero from 1949 until 1959, and that I am still feeling as an aficionado.
To provide an idea of what might have motivated the NATC to consider me qualified to be the recipient of this prestigious award, I will mention some of my informative adventures related with tauromaquia in which I have been involved since June, 1960, when, newly retired as a matador, I arrived in Maryland with my family with the purpose of pursuing an academic degree, and to give my life a new direction away from the bullfighting world.
When I arrived in the United States, I intentionally wanted to erase bullfighting from my mind to avoid any deviation from the course that my life was taking. But a reporter from THE SUN, the most important newspaper in Maryland, somehow, and I do not know how, found out about my past in the bullrings, and convinced me to allow him to write an article about my life for the supplement magazine of the SUNDAY SUN edition. The extensive article was published on August 5th, 1962. It was very well written with a sympathetic human touch, but at the same time it had a sensationalistic aspect, something like “Famous Spanish torero, after ten years of putting his life on the line in the bullrings, and after many gorings, retires motivated by his love of an American girl and their son.” A picture of me wearing a colorful suit-of-lights was the cover of the magazine, and several photos, both bullfighting and with the family, illustrated the article.
Other national publications partially reproduced the article. The result was that, without seeking them, I started receiving multiple requests to make bullfighting presentations in academic, cultural and social centers, as well as invitations to appear on local and national television programs, including the then popular show “To Tell the Truth”.
At the university, when taking my first English literature course, given my limited command of the English language, I had problems choosing an author and a novel from the course syllabus about which to write a paper. Then I asked the professor, who had read the article in THE SUN, for help. He advised me that “ It would be better for me to write the paper about a subject with which I was familiar.” He kindly recommended that I write my paper on Hemingway’s DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON, although neither the work nor the author were part of the course. So, thanks to this wise educator, I started writing about bullfighting and developing an academic curiosity for bullfighting literature, and since then, I have written taurine themes, in Spanish as well as in English, every time that I had an opportunity to do so.
In the 80’s I became a member of the Taurine Bibliophiles of America club (TBA), and I regularly contributed to its LA BUSCA magazines with bullfighting book reviews. This association helped me to increase my knowledge of American bullfighting literature as well as to meet American aficionados, and to stablish friendships with many of them. The Peña Taurina of Maryland was the only other taurine club of which I have been a member. It was founded by a group of my friends, many of whom were TBA members who resided in Maryland and in the adjoining states. The club was active for several years.
In 1986, together with a few partners we published LA TERTULIA, the Spanish cultural magazine from the Spanish club Casa de España de Maryland. It lasted until 1989. Nevertheless, later we continued publishing it independently from 1990 until 1998 under the name COLOQUIO. I was the editor of both publications, and although neither of them were taurine magazines, from time to time, I included some of my bullfighting writings. Some of those articles are still posted somewhere in this site.
Additionally, the Internet opened new avenues for me to bring information and knowledge about toreo to a broader audience when in1991 the Webmaster of the bilingual cultural site LAS PAGINAS HISPANAS asked me to design and manage a section dedicated to bullfighting, which I called TAUROMAQUIA. This section still is posted on the Internet, but it is languishing without new material being posted since 1998 when I left to create MI MUNDO DEL TROEO-MY BULLFIGHTING WORLD. Now amateur aficionados’ sites as well as professional Web magazines abound, but 1991 we were pioneers of bullfighting information in cyberspace.
I also had opportunities to let the world know about American taurine activities, such as the bloodless corridas in California and Texas, the American aficionados practicos’ performances, the NATC congresses, the bullfighting school workshops and others, when I was named USA correspondent of the professional Web magazine BURLADERO.COM.
Several of my writings that were posted on the Internet have been reproduced with my permission in some Spanish and American magazines and club newsletters, but I also I discovered in Google and some other search engines that several sites have posted some of my articles without my permission and others have even plagiarized my work.
An unexpected side effect from writing with a certain credibility for MMDT, and reaching a wide audience, has been the considerable number of e-mails that I have received soliciting information, or asking for advice or help in how to produce taurine projects. This gratifies me since I feel that I am promoting bullfighting but, at the same time, it worries me that this activity occupies too much of my time since, not being a bullfighting encyclopedia, I often have to search for data in order to provide correct and well documented answers.
Let me go back to the matters related to the award. In February, 2006 I wrote to Hugh Hosch that I regretted that I would not be able to be present at the congress in Aguascalientes in April, since I was committed to be in Seville on those dates to attend the corridas prgrammed for the feria, and to be with my family there, as is my annual routine. I also noted that I was lucky that my friend Jim Toland, who lives in Maryland, was planning to attend the convention and had offered to accept the trophy on my behalf.
On Saturday, May 20th, with Jim Toland back in Maryland, and me back from Seville, Jim invited my wife, Sally, some friends and me to dinner at his home. The occasion was to deliver the O.P. Houston Award that he had received on my behalf at the 2006 NATC Convention in Aguascalientes to me. He playfully did it simulating an alternativa ceremony, with Pepe Céspedes, the son of Peruvian matador Paco Céspedes, and brother of the novillero of the same name , (who is also my guru of the Web), acting as the witness.
This attractive award is already on display in our home. It serves to remind me that the members of NATC, the best of the American aficion, have recognized my contributions to the promotion of the art of bullfighting… and also that when things are done without any motive other than the pleasure involved in doing them, sometimes one is richly rewarded.Thank you National Association of Taurine Clubs of the United States of America!