The 41st Annual Congress of the National Association of Taurine Clubs of America--- NATC---, was held in the City of Zacatecas, Mexico, from September 7 until September 17, 2003. The Peña Taurina Sol y Sombra of San Francisco, California, hosted it, and Rafael and Irene Iglesias, assisted by Hugh Hosch, organized and coordinated this annual event. The Hotel Emporio was the site for some of the Congress activities, and was where the conventioneers were staying.
The NATC is an umbrella organization that includes nine American taurine clubs. Since 1963 the NATC has held an annual congress. The goals of the annual convention are to deal with business matters related to the organization; to offer members and guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in multiple taurine events; and to promote the interrelation among its members, as well as between them and the aficionados and taurinos from the location where the convention is taking place. The first convention was held in El Paso, Texas, in 1963, and since then 41 more congresses have been held in different locations. Six congresses took place in the United States, in cities close to the Mexican border, 4 in France, 3 in Spain, and 27 in Mexico, five of them in Zacatecas including the one that just concluded.
The Mexican colonial and historic City of Zacatecas is the capital of the state of the same name. It is situated on the nation's high central plateau 610 kilometers north of Mexico City. The origins of city go back to September 8, 1546, when the Spanish conquistador Juan de Tolosa founded a colony with the intention of mining the rich silver deposits found near the actual city. Due the riches obtained by the exploitation of the silver mines, the colony grew in importance so fast, in fact, that in 1587 the Spanish King Philip the Second granted the settlement the title of "Noble and Loyal City of Our Lady of the Zacatecas". After the Mexican independence from Spain, the city played an important role in the development of the Mexican nation, especially in the Revolutionary Civil War when General Francisco Villa took the city in June 23, 1914, defeating the government forces. A massive monument to General Villa and to other national heroes on the Cerro de la Bufa dominates the view of the city, and is one of spots most frequently visited by the tourists. It can be reached from the center of the town by cable car.
Today modern Zacatecas is like a gleaming gem, which has been polished by culture and a glorious past. It is perched between two hills in a beautiful environment that is enhanced by impressive buildings and monuments, and interesting museums and cultural centers. Because of its beauty, its rich history and mix of cultures in 1993 UNESCO declared the City of Zacatecas "Cultural Patrimony of the Humanity'.
During the time of the NATC Congress the town was celebrating the well-known and popular "Feria Nacional de Zacatecas", a three week-long celebration---September 5- 21---, during which many events were programmed, such as cultural exhibitions, conferences, contests, religious processions, parades, rodeos, concerts, and several taurine events. The fair celebrates the foundation of the city and the independence of the nation.
Zacatecas being such interesting city and its fair having so many attractions, plus the fact that several brave bull-breeding ranches are located in the countryside near the city, and because interesting tourist spots are nearby, it is understandable why the NATC held its convention in this city for fifth time.
The Congress opened with a reception in the Paraíso Room of the Hotel Emporio on Sunday September 7. There, after NATC President Jim Nieto welcomed the conventioneers, and introduced some of the people responsible for the organization of the Congress, the Iglesias presented the program of taurine, social, tourist and business activities in which the participants would be engaged during the following ten days.
Four corridas, a novillada and a corrida of rejoneo were scheduled in the taurine program. The Tauromex Empresa, which manages the Plaza Monumental de Zacatecas, had omitted aging Mexican stars from the corrida series, and instead included young promising matadors, to give them the chances to succeed. The young men did not disappoint neither the empresarios nor the NATC members who attended the corridas, since they were pleased with the courage and the enthusiasm displayed by the toreros, which made the events, if not brilliant, at least entertaining. On the other hand the cartels failed to attract the people to the bullring in sufficient numbers. The Spaniards were Angel Gómez Escorial, Juan Diego and Leandro Marcos, and the Mexicans were "Jerónimo", Ignacio Garibay, Antonio Bricio, Israel Téllez, Fermín Spinola, Jorge Carmona, Fabían Barba and Alejandro Amaya. Mexicans Gerardo Trueba, Octavio Sánchez y Rodrigo Santos performed in the rejoneo corrida, and Mexicans Guillermo Martinez and Arturo García, and Peruvian Juan Carlos Cubas fought in the novillada. Matadors Garibay, Barba and Marcos cut two ears each, and matador Gómez Escorial, novilleros Martinez and Macias, plus rejoneador Trueba cut one ear each. Nevertheless, the overall winner was rejoneador Santos, who received four ears and a tail for his outstanding performances. Except for a half dozen of the bulls, the work of the matadors was made difficult by the lack of bravery of a majority of the animals fought. Unfortunately, matadors Garibay, Barba and Carmona, and novillero Macias were injured and other performers were tossed by some bulls. Mercifully they escaped being injured, when trying to do their best with the dangerous animals they faced. The bulls of the corridas were from the ranches "Marrón", "Malpaso", "Begoña" and "Real de Saltillo"; the novillos from "Xajay", and the rejoneo bulls from 'Vistahermosa". Two rejoneo toros and two novillos were outstanding. The last corrida with Jorge Carmona, Alejandro Amaya and Leandro Marcos, was held on Sunday September 21 after the NATC Congress ended.
Other taurine activities included two 'fiestas camperas' held at the bull breeding ranches of José Miguel Llaguno and of Sergio Rojas, where the NATC conventioneers visited with the bull breeders and their families, toured the facilities and also enjoyed Mexican buffets. At the ranch of José Miguel Llaguno, the young Zacatecan novillero César Montes and I had a chance to perform with two-year old bull and a calf. I showed that I had not completely forgotten how to torear, and César displayed good bullfighting skills with the two animals. A few days later he successfully performed with a young bull at a morning festival in the Plaza Monumental de Zacatecas. He dedicated his bull to Antonia Mohs and other NATC members. On the way to the José Miguel Llaguno ranch a stop was made at the hacienda of the late don Julián Llaguno, the founder of the famous "Torrecilla" bull brand. His grandson, bull breeder José Antonio, gaves the visitor a guided tour of the historical house. At the ranch of Sergio Rojas the rain did not permit us to fight the five calves waiting for us in the bullpen in the ranch bullring.
NATC also took part in the cycle of conferences Primera Semana Cultural Taurina (First Cultural Taurine Week) at the Calderón Theater of Zacatecas on September 10. A panel with the NATC members James Nieto, Hugh Hosch, Bette Stracke y Jimee Petrich participated in the segment titled "Aficionados sin fronteras" (Aficionados without Boundaries), and they provided information about the American taurine aficion, their clubs and the NATC functions, and they entertained questions from the audience. Moreover, Allen Josephs, the author of RITUAL AND SACRIFICE OF THE CORRIDA, also gave a conference in the Paraíso Room at the Hotel Emporio. He related his experiences in writing the book and read some passages of his writing to the audience.
Not all activities, however, were of a taurine nature, since there were organized sightseeing trips, a business meeting, and some social events. The conventioneers took several tours to visit historical and typical places in the city and its surroundings. The city tour, visiting the Cerro of the Bufa, La Alameda, the Aqueduct and the Hotel Quinta Real and the tours to the archeological site of La Quemada and to the old colonial town of Jerez were quite impressive and enjoyable.
The NATC Assembly was held on Thursday, September 11. After dealing with several internal matters, the members selected Arturo Díaz for the 2004-O.P. Houston Award, approved the proposal for the organization for the next congress, and elected the officers for the coming year. The Club Taurino of Chicago will host the next congress in Bilbao, Spain, during its August fair. The elected officers for the years 2003-4 are Arturo Diaz, President; Bette Stracke, Vice-president; Hugh Hosch, Secretary; and Octavio Román, Treasurer.
Of the social activities, of which there were several, the Gala Dinner at the elegant and original Hotel Quinta Real on September 13, and the Mexican Independence Day fiesta held at the Plaza de Armas and the Hotel Emporio on September 15 and 16 were truly outstanding. At the Gala Dinner in a brief ceremony author Allen Josephs was given the NATC George B. Smith Award Medal, for his contributions to English taurine literature, and Betty Stracke received the Nancy A. Slayton Award, for her work pro fiesta brava in the United States. The Hotel Quinta Real, was the appropriate place for holding a taurine activity, since it was cleverly built in the abandon old Zacatecas bullring, with parts of the bullring structures retained, including the arena, which has been converted into the hotel's main court.
Starting one hour before midnight of September 16, the NATC members joined the Mexicans to celebrate the Day of the Independence of Mexico. From the hotel balconies, we witnessed the Governor of the State of Zacatecas, addressing the crowd that filled the Plaza de Armas, reenact the patriotic "Grito de Dolores". This refers to Father Hidalgo's call for independence from Spain in the town of Dolores on September 16, 1810. The Governor was standing on a balcony of the Governmental Palace, just across from our hotel. Immediately following the ceremony a splendid display of fireworks and a communal party with lively music and dancing followed, lasting several hours.
The afternoon of the same day there was a corrida, and in the evening the Congress concluded on a high note with a cocktail party in the Paraiso Room at the hotel, where it had started ten days before. Ten days during which the conventioneers enjoyed many taurine, social and tourist activities, the pleasure to live temporarily in an interesting, beautiful and peaceful city, as well as the company and camaraderie of the friendly NATC and local fellow aficionados.
Thanks to the planning skills of Rafael and Irene Iglesias with the assistance of Hugh Hosch, Jimee Petrich, the local bull breeders José Miguel Llaguno, Jose Antonio Llaguno and Sergio Rojas, the staff of Hotel Emporio, and the sponsorship of the Peña Sol y Sombra, the 41st NATC Congress in Zacatecas was a great success, which will be long remembered by the participants.