When I was bullfighting in Spain and in Latin America, I was introduced to several Americans, who were curious about anything related to bullfighting. I befriended some of these Americans and I tried to satisfy their curiosity by answering their questions, giving them pictures and other small souvenirs.
I was fascinated by the intensity of their desire to know more about toreo. Nevertheless, I have to confess that then, like many other Spanish professionals and aficionados, I did not take their aficion seriously. Probably, I thought that their interest in bullfighting was only the effect of the sense of discovery that usually engulfs us when encountering the novelties of a different culture.
I do not know whether those Americans I met became aficionados later, or if they just remembered bullfighting as another interesting experience they had when they were traveling or living in a foreign country. But what I do know today, after living in the United States for many years, is that the American aficionados are as knowledgeable and passionate as any aficionados of any taurine country. I know this because I have had the good fortune to meet and become friends with many of these avid aficionados.
I recall that my first contact with bullfighting fans in the United States occurred when, with Jim Toland and René Arneodau, aficionados who I met by chance in Baltimore, I attended a Taurine Bibliophiles of America tertulia. It was held at Don Conovers, home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1984. I had the chance there to meet and interact with a select group of aficionados and, since the experience was so pleasant, I joined TBA, and I am still a member of that organization.
I became active in TBA and went to several other TBA tertulias that were held at the Conover's place again and at the homes of Gil Arruda in Rhode Island and of Fred Hochberg in Virginia.
Meanwhile we founded the Peña Taurina of Maryland. The membership was formed mainly by TBA members who reside here and in the states adjoining Maryland.
Throughout the 80's my contact with aficionados was mainly with the members of these organizations. Later, in the 90's and in the years of this new century the scope of my American taurine contacts has expanded considerably. In 1993, John Gonsalves, an active aficionado in California, introduced me to the world of the bloodless bullfights in that state. On my trip to Reynosa, Mexico, this year I visited Fred Renk at his ranch in La Gloria, Texas, to learn firsthand of his efforts to introduce bloodless toreo in Southern Texas. Then Jim Verner opened the door for me to enter his world of the 'aficionado-practicos' in 2002. The 'practicos' are toreo aficionados who fight brave animals as a hobby. This peculiar aspect of the American aficion fascinates me since, in spite of the lack of opportunities in the USA, the 'practico' fighting activity is more prevalent among the American aficionados than among the aficionados of any other country.
Also, in this new century I met many more bullfighting fans when attending two National Association of Taurine Clubs of America congresses in Mexico. Furthermore, since the middle of the 90's the Internet opened new avenues for contact with aficionados, and thanks to Stanley Conrad's chat room, Mundo Taurino, I have been able to use his forum for that purpose.
I have often thought of the extreme difficulty of being a bullfighting aficionado in the United states as compared with any taurine country. In Spain, for example, the opportunities to meet other people who share your interest in toreo, and to get involved in taurine activities are plentiful, but not in this land, especially in the states far from the Mexican border. My case is a good example since, living in Maryland, it took me almost a dozen years to find out that there were great aficionados even in my same state. Today with the Internet it is a little easier but still difficult.
As I got more and more involved with the aficionados and their organizations, my admiration for the U.S. aficion grew, since I realized the difficulties that the aficionados encounter and must overcome in the United States to keep their passion alive. However, I did not keep this feeling to myself, since I made a point to inform others about the greatness of this aficion through my writings, conferences, presentations and private conversations.
Therefore, what I wrote or commented about the U.S. taurine fans was nothing more than a consequence of my genuine admiration. I did not expect that it would be considered something special. Nevertheless, this year, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of my alternativa, I have been overwhelmed by the recognition and congratulations that I received from American aficionados and their institutions.
The first surprise came in the form of my nomination for the O.P. Houston Award by Rosalvina Prebil, President of the Peña Taurina Sol y Sombra of San Francisco. This prize is granted by the NATC to "a person who has contributed exemplary service to the taurine world, and has conveyed to others an enlightened view of the history and art of the fiesta brava". Later, in May, I was notified that I has been elected by the member clubs at the NATC Congress in Jerez, Spain, to be the recipient of the award.
Another surprise was the decision of 'practicos' Jim Verner, Bruce Hutton and Longinos Mendoza to organize a 'practico' festival in Reynosa on May 29 of this year, to commemorate the anniversary of my alternativa. Also, probably in reaction to an e-mail posted by reporter and author Jim Myers in Mundo Taurino, in which he mentioned the upcoming anniversary of my of my alternativa, I received official letters from several taurine clubs as well as several e-mails from aficionados and friends congratulating me on the anniversary, and for my efforts to promote the fiesta brava. In addtion to all the manifestations of recognition, the TBA magazine LA BUSCA and the newsletters of Los Aficionados de los Angeles, Sol y Sombra, Club Taurino of New York, and New York City Club Taurino contained articles and references to my alternativa and taurine activities.
I will end these thoughts about the outstanding American aficion, of which I consider myself one more aficionado, by reiterating how much I admire the dedication and love for toreo that American aficionados have; and by letting everyone know how much I appreciate so many unexpected expressions of recognition of my past and current taurine activities. I could go on expressing my positive feelings about this aficion, but I will just say: many thanks, muchas gracias, American aficion.Return to BIOGRAPHY