La prensa

El Juli Closes Out the “Season of Hope” at Monumental de Playas

Author: Mark Schwarz
Created: 15 November, 2013
Updated: 13 September, 2023
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4 min read

Julian Lopez “El Juli” and Arturo Macias “El Cejas” salute the crowd after a good afternoon.
Julian Lopez “El Juli” and Arturo Macias “El Cejas” salute the crowd after a good afternoon.

The Casa Toreros empresarial group, fulfilling the last—or first—of the substantial promises made at the beginning of their maiden year managing the moribund Tijuana taurine scene, brought the Spanish master, Julian Lopez, “El Juli” to the venerable “Jewel by the Sea” to close out a season that, by recent standards, must be counted as an unqualified success. Lopez, who is unquestionably one of the greatest toreros in history, had originally been scheduled to open the temporada in May. A serious goring in the Spring Fair in Sevilla made that impossible, but Pablo Moreno, director of Casa Toreros, and day by day one of the most important empresarios in Mexico, promised to bring the master back as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Promise fulfilled.

The original herd of animals from the Santa Barbara ranch was substituted by 3 bulls each from the ranches of Xajay and Marron. As has been the general tonic of the season, the encierro was a decidedly mixed bag of physical presence and behavioral quality. El Payo’s rough and devious first animal was one of the worst bulls of the season, and none of the six was much beyond obedient. “Dejaron estar los toreros” is the taurine expression, “they let the bullfighters do” as they would. Only two, “Juli’s” first, Triunfador,of Xajay, and Macias’ first, Te-quilero, of Marron, offered real possibilities, more for excessive quantities of the uniquely Mexican quality of “bondad” or generosity, than any true “bravura” or bravery—the elusive quality that urges a bull to greedily repeat his attack wherever and whenever the challenge is offered.

Though both matadors cut four ears (an historic success in the recent trials of taurine Tijuana), there is no way to compare the technical savvy, artistic sophistication, vision and integrity of El Juli’s twin masterworks with Macias’ safe, consumer friendly triumphs of style over substance with both bulls. Impartial observers will point out Juli’s vast experience—over 1,500 cor-ridas in 15 recently completed seasons as a full matador, versus Macias’ fewer than 300 in just over 7 years of professional activity. Yet as the careers of each man have advanced, they have taken diametrically opposite roads: Juli to ever deeper compenetration with the psyche of each bull and shades of interpretation and meaning, and Macias—though capable of honorable work—toward uncannily well-timed and expertly orchestrated posing and sundry diversions instead of real toreo. Apples and oranges. Or mangoes and cherimoya—as you wish. It’s always harder to do the right thing—especially when a few well timed poses, kisses for the kids and old ladies, a 1,000 watt smile and some serious eyebrow bending (they don’t call him “Cejas” for nothing) will garner you the same 4 ears that an awe inspiring demonstration of taurine perfection does—with far less risk.

Just ask the “other” torero on the card, Casa Torero’s latest reclamation project, Octavio Garcia, “El Payo.” A modern day phoenix, Payo has resurrected himself from a near career ending debacle in the all important San Isidro fair in Madrid two years ago, where he was so bad that he all but disappeared for six months, and the rumor mill abounded with “what happened” and “what’s next” stories. Over the last year, however, the handsome young “guero” from Queretaro has apparently decided that he does to want to be an important matador, and his two Tijuana appearances this season, in which he has drawn the poorest bulls, have been emblematic of his new direction: high road, high risk toreo (he suffered a chilling voltereta from his second bull, literally hanging on for life as the bull tossed him over its back and then dragged him several yards before being distracted by his team), searching for technical and emotional honesty, no matter the particular idiosyncrasies of the animals he faces. He cut no awards—though a more accurate sword to the handsome gray would certainly have brought an ear—but his recovered sense of purpose and potential goes ahead of him as a harbinger of great things to come.

It’s not often when we are treated to the best work that an acknowledged master has to offer. Genius is serendipitous, whimsical—there are many pretenders and, in our day, the clever bloviation of marketing and media frequently conspire to manufacture majesty from smoke and mirrors. The joy of “El Juli” then, is the appreciation of actual genius, actual mastery, actual toreo.

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