On January 10th of this year, Maestro Mario CARRION, family, friends and myself took part in a "fiesta campera" in CARMONA, just outside of SEVILLE. You might have read Mario's article in the Spanish section of this website entitled "VIVENCIAS: INESPERADA FIESTA TAURINA EN "El TENTAERO" DE CARMONA (SEVILLA)". We had such a wonderful experience that when Mario confirmed he would be in SEVILLE for the 2004 Feria I asked if he would agree to fighting a couple more "becerras" in the same setting. There was no hesitation on the Maestro's part and I was ecstatic at the opportunity to improve my previous performance. Mario's brother in law Antonio MIHURA ( our Apoderado ) generously and caringly took the matter of organizing the event into his hands, as he had in January.
Came April 24th 2004. We were all quite nervous, because we knew the odds would be tough that such a perfect day, as that of January 10th, could be repeated. Guess what ? We won the lottery. The weather was splendid, the "vacas", from Los Guateles , extremely combative and noble, and the company extraordinary.
From the first day I met Maestro Mario CARRION back in the mid 1980's, my Aficion, which dates back to 1970, has greatly evolved, in part thanks to him. With Mario I met wonderful and exceptional people in the USA and in Spain, with whom I've developed friendships or shared precious experiences. It occurred again in CARMONA.
As we arrived at "The VENTA DEL TENTAERO" in CARMONA on that glorious day, Mario introduced me to his friends and guests. I met Gaston RAMIREZ CUEVAS an Aficionado, Revistero, Artista, Professor from MEXICO who was in SEVILLE with his MAMA and TIA and with his charming girlfriend MARU, who is by the way a Gran Aficionada a los Toros and of Manuel CABALLERO. I was also privileged in meeting Maria José GUERRERO MARTINEZ a friend of Gaston and Maru who is a Sevillana, Aficionada, Escritora thanks to whom we have a video of our "Capea", as she kindly accepted the task of filming the event. To my delight were also present John GOLD, from LONDON (ENGLAND), who was working at the CONCHA Y SIERRA "Ganaderia" for a few weeks as a tour guide, and the "Novillera" Vanessa MONTOYA, who had also attended the first "Capea" in January.
It was time to open the "toriles". MAOLIQUI, the owner of the VENTA, gave orders to let loose the smaller of the two "becerras" he had reserved for us to "torear". Mario and Vanessa took care of giving the first passes to cool of the impetuous animal. If you ask Mario to give you his point of view on his "toreo" this day, he will tell you he didn't feel at his best. Because he is my friend and I know him well, I understand why he feels that way. Mario CARRION is a Maestro in every sense of the word. He is in great physical shape and would not care nor need to seek any excuse, including age. He also has high expectations for himself and therefore could not be content with just a good demonstration. This day Mario was good, in several series he was firm and determined. He also gave a variety of passes and "adornos". But I know the real reason Mario could never have been satisfied. It's because he had fought a "Novillo" several days prior. He had attended a FESTIVAL organized by a group of American Aficionados and Toreros, among them Jim VERNER. Mario was invited, unexpectedly, to "torear" a "Novillo", which he did with "maestria", from what I've been told. One can easily understand that in CARMONA he would not be able to rise to the same emotional intensity with a smaller animal. Nonetheless, I will take upon myself to say that Mario was efficient with capote and "muleta" as well as "valiente" in CARMONA.
Vanessa MONTOYA is proof that we do not know how rich the world of bullfight is. This young "Torera" had surprised us in January, as she did again this time, with her technique and "Arte". The bulls have punished her five times already and she keeps on seeking the opportunities which will give her a chance to live and develop her art, the art we enjoyed in CARMONA.
Then came my turn. I was determined to improve my "toreo" from the "Capea" in January. I lived up to my own expectations. Three "muleta" series with both hands to demonstrate there was and still is room to improve. But I really did feel good, reaching that sense of detachment from your body when time stops and you loose touch with all senses. Those were about two to three minutes that felt like hours and still send emotions through my body. As an Aficionado I give my opinion about the bullfights I attend and it has always been important for me to be able to corroborate my commentaries based on personal experiences of this sort.
As I was resting behind the "burladero" of the "Placita", enjoying the feeling resulting from my short but fulfilling performance, Gaston RAMIREZ took control of the "muleta". He looked calm, and was able to give some quality "muletazos" that reaped some "bien" and "muy bien" from the attendees. Turns out he decided to take refuge in my "burladero" after his performance. There is where we finally got to exchange our first words and thoughts. We then realized we have much in common. Gaston is a French professor back in MEXICO. We were able to communicate in Spanish and French during our various encounters around SEVILLE. Gaston is very knowledgeable about taurine matters as you can verify in his articles published in the Spanish section of this website. It was interesting listening to his point of view expressed in SEVILLE but with a MEXICAN touch which brought tolerance and joy to an otherwise tense and at times depressing FERIA. Gaston is also an Artist who wrote the lyrics to an album released in MEXICO with his friends in the rock group "ABRIL". As I was complimenting him on his passes to the "becerra" he told me it was his first attempt at working with the "muleta" which gave that much more importance to his achievement.
John GOLD used the opportunity to show ENGLAND is not left behind when it comes to "Aficion" and "Toreo". His "muletazos" were in tone with the quality of the event, tranquil and determined.
At the end of the day I had a little less than a week left in SEVILLE to enjoy the special feeling this magical city gives those who are ready to look at it, not just as a tourist venue, but as a formidable source of Art, History, and Humanity from which bullfighting is inseparable. Let me share with you the great joy I experience every time I walk the streets of SEVILLE, discussing with Maestro Mario CARRION the "corridas" we saw in the Maestranza, exchanging thoughts about the bulls, the current crisis in the Taurine world, or the memory of past Ferias. As we walk up Calle Mateos Gago, where the cobble stones send a reminder of the history of SEVILLA through your body, then plunge into the heart of the "Bario de Santa Cruz", I definitely feel SEVILLE is the spirit of my "aficion". We stop in various bars where we continue "charlando", drinking "cerveza" and "manzanilla", savoring "Jamon de Bellota", "Montaditos de pringa", "Solomillo al Whiskey" or "Pavia de Bacalao" and we realize this is bliss. On our way back we look up to the "Giralda" illuminated on the backdrop of the Andalusian sky, and can't help but being moved by the impact of her sheer beauty.
Events in SEVILLA, this year, confirmed that the Taurine world is in crisis. Rarely was the "cartel de no hay billetes" posted on the ticket office. The bulls were weak, lacking "casta", except for a few, thus disappointing in general. The public was surprisingly generous at times, at least that is what I think regarding the triumph they offered Javier CONDE and Jesuli de TORRECERA. Mario and I had various conversations about these matters and Mario is much more temperate than I am. The few first corridas of SAN ISIDRO in Madrid haven't changed my mind. As of today May 12, the high point has come from Anton CORTES with excellent bulls of Puerto de San Lorenzo. But let me point out that this year the stands have had empty spots in Madrid and for the first time in many years some abonos came out for sale. Something is going wrong for sure. The professionals of the business are currently more concerned with their private interests than with the future of the "Fiesta", not only in Spain, but in Mexico as well. Just look at the mess, this past season, in La Monumental.
There is hope of course when you are fortunate enough, as we were, to see the extraordinary "faena" Cesar RINCON gave to "Violonista" (Jandilla). Really that fight was great not only because of RINCON's work but because "Violonista" gave early signs of weakness to later come back in "banderillas" and provide wonderful qualities which Maestro RINCON gave homage to. May this be a metaphor as to what will become of the Fiesta.
There is hope as well when you meet wonderful "Aficionados" as those mentioned above or others like the members of the "Tertulia Taurina Ganaderia Estrella" we attended during the Feria. The members of that jury are extremely knowledgeable and interesting. I particularly enjoyed listening to comments from Alfonso ORDONEZ and Andres Luque GAGO. Mario and Gaston were invited to participate and comment several times, which they did with pertinence. There is hope as well when you meet a Jim VERNER and realize the tremendous amount of energy and aficion he and his friends invest in their passion, fighting bulls around the world. The future of the fiesta currently lies in the hands of professionals, but the solutions for survival will most likely come from passionate aficionados.
If you haven't yet been to SEVILLE make sure you go and let yourself be submerged by the magic. I will cherish many fond memories from the 2004 Feria and one of them will be seeing my friend Maestro Mario CARRION in his Sevilla, geeting or chatting with Canales Rivera and his brother, with the members of the "Tertulia Ganaderia Estrella", with the "Faraon" Curro Romero, just to mention a few. Of course Mario has been away from SEVILLE for many years now, but one thing will never change, Mario is a Maestro.
FOTOS:1. Organizers, participants and guests at "El Tentaero".