… I remember going reluctantly to the cabalgaltas with the family and seeing giant beasts approaching us. From a child’s perspective these animals were terrifying. I remember going on Sundays to the Corrida to see the latest bullfighters from Spain perform for those who were lucky to score some tickets. The bull ring was filled to capacity. The heat, the liquor, and the beautiful Caleñas with their hats and colorful dresses added to the spectacle. I would sit next to my mother, since sometimes it was just the two of us who would attend a Corrida de Toros at the Plaza de Toros Cañaveralejo to see El Cordobés and other similarly named bull fighters perform.
What I don’t ever remember, is seeing my father at a corrida. That’s strange because of the customs of this South American nation. The Feria in Cali is the event to attend every December. I believe he would be busy with the university, La Universidad Santiago de Cali, as it was called then, or in Rome having an audience with the pope, or visiting his father in a house within walking distance of the futbol stadium, El Pascual Guerrero.
Perhaps if I ask my sisters for details about my grandfather, they might provide me with my grandfather’s address. Unfortunately, I’ve only asked one, and she didn’t remember anything. This doesn’t surprise me because we would be driven there and back by the chauffeur. Maybe I’ll ask my older cousins who surely remember their grandfather well, since they were old enough to visit by themselves. Of my grandfather I only remember his musty library, the National Geographic magazines with the naked African women, the photograph of an embalmed body in a casket, and his funeral. It was well attended by his constituents since he was once the mayor of Buga.
I pause here for a second to call my sister to verify a fact and to pet Torrey who constantly wants a massage.
I also pause to warn you not to continue reading or seeing the photographs that follow. Bullfighting is a brutal “sport.” If you can tolerate the first page, then beware because the photographs and videos on the following page are shocking. Heed my advice and do not to proceed from this point.
What I can remember the most of the corridas in Cali, was the suffering. No, not the bulls, but mine. I could almost feel the pain the bull fighter felt when he was struck by the bull. I also remember an indulto. The bull was spared and the crowd yelled and applauded an animal for his courage. The poor animal had no idea what had transpired. Neither had I. I had always expected the end, to be the death of the bull.
This Feria de Cali went on in my life till I was ten years old. It was a constant, repetitive distraction. I was too young to enjoy the women and their beauty and the Aguardiente del Valle.
After emigrating from South America, to New York City without my consent and advice, the bullfighting stopped and was soon forgotten. While living in the States, I did happen to spend some time with my cousin one summer. That was probably the longest stretch of time I was ever away from my adopted nation. There I saw no bulls, but I did spend time with the Le Roy family in a hilly section of Cali.
That’s where my career as a photographer took off. I exaggerate career, because the only thing it provided me was enough money to pay my tuition at Queens College of the City University of New York and later the Brooklyn Polytechnic, which had recently changed its name to the Polytechnic Institute of New York, and the countless costs in film, chemicals and time spent in darkrooms at the university.
I’ve never sold a print since photography is only a hobby. Those who have wanted to pay me for the few prints I gave them of their children were surprised I didn’t want to be reimbursed. Had they asked me to take family portraits, I would have refused or I would have set the price too high for them to want to hire me.
Another pause to talk to Demi, a calico cat who is a bit strange and 17-years-old.
The next corrida I remember very well. I sought and bargained for two tickets to a Feria de Cali. The seller was Diego, the driver was Jaime, and my date was Liliana. I have pictures of that date but I don’t remember anything about the corrida. I remember being taken to and later being picked up at the end of the corrida. We went to a restaurant, talked, ate and we never ever saw each other again.
The next corrida was special, because I was detained at the entrance for carrying a Swiss Army knife. The one I had used to free a woman who had gotten stuck in a bathroom on Avianca. I took the policeman’s name and number. He promised to meet me at the same gate. Hernando happened to have gone with me that Sunday. He was appalled that I had dared question the authorities.
The policeman met me at the exit, and I offered him my Swiss Army knife, but he declined. “It’s a toy,” he said. I’m sure to him it was a toy but to me it was a tool. I told Alfredo about the incident and he asked me if I had given the policeman the knife. “I tried, but he refused it,” I told my dear uncle. He seemed pleased that I had tried to do so.
The next corrida was in Acapulco, Mexico. I had traveled with Mireille. She refused to accompany me to the bull ring. What did she do while I was away for a few hours? I don’t know since she doesn’t drink or swim or ride horses or drive in a foreign nation without me beside her. The bullfight was mediocre, with sub par bullfighters and small bulls. They all died (the bulls) and I caught it all with my Canon AE-1 Program.
I brought back to the states, in a rifle case that I bought in an Acapulco flea market, the bloodied banderillas of a fallen heroic bull. This rifle case I carried on board the Mexican Airlines DC 10. I could have tried to lunge for the bull’s ears that were thrown near my seat on the shady side of the bull ring, but I was too busy taking pictures of the unfair fight between the bull and the man. Had I fought for them, they would still be under my bed with the banderillas.
The last bullfight was the one in Barcelona in 2011. The bulls were huge and the bullfighters had the balls to kneel and greet these beasts. I started to feel the fear again while I cooked in the sunny side of the bullring. This is where I noticed that the bullfighters are afraid of the sun. I don’t know if they stay in the shady side so that they can see the bull with losing him in the sun or if they just work that side because they paid more euros than us in the sunny side.
I got tired and bored watching bull after bull die. Some were clean kills others were painful to watch. I’m not one to interfere with customs, but this “sport” just doesn’t appeal to me anymore.
Last year the citizens of Catalunya, decided by referendum to ban bull fighting in Barcelona.
Continuing to see beyond this point is not recommended if you are squeamish about gore, entrails, and suffering.
Sent from my iPad and corrected extensively on a Dell Inspiron.
- Portuguese bullfighting a show of cavalry (travelnews.britishairways.com)