Talavera was to
provide a clue about the upcoming season. If the bulls were underbred and the
matadors perfunctory, no one would take seriously the notion of a significant
rivalry developing between Ord��ez and Camino. On the other hand a magnificent
program at Talavera would signal the beginning of noteworthy toreo.
The day of the
memorial program dawned gloomily. Spain was having her wettest May since the
18th century, but by late morning Talavera was sunny, and the plaza, in a
pretty grove of trees crisscrossed by pleasant walks, sparkled with raindrops.
The good weather continued during the choice by lot of the bulls, but the hour
of the corrida was still far off.
Usually in May,
the town is a dusty uninviting little place, apart from the park and the
tree-embellished plaza de toros. But now it was lush from rain and interesting,
for crowds of countrymen had come to see the cattle fair, the circus and the
sideshows. Tourists do not visit Talavera much, and in spring only Spanish is
heard in the streets. Spreading through the park in military rows were show
cattle, horses and a few prize sheep. Years ago the bullfighting programs were
put on as an appendage to the cattle fair but now tractors are making inroads,
and the cattlemen lament the decline of their place in the order of things.
More lamentable was the knowledge that the farmers, with the twisted bodies of
men who work hard all day every day, from childhood to the grave—the men for
whom the bulls were originally a diversion—could no longer pay the price of a
ticket into the plaza. They shook hands, their skin like a bird's claw, and
with remarkable sweetness explained their situation. They could not even afford
the sideshows, the cooch dance tent with its promise of voluptuous sin redeemed
only by the fact that the cooch dancers were dwarfs. But the peasants walked
the paths of the park among the town girls who promenaded in pairs and
clusters. There was safety in numbers. At the trinket stands, toy bulls were
hawked while one entrepreneur combed the plastic hair of stuffed spitz
In the bar of the
hotel were men down from Madrid, uncalloused, with the paunchy appearance of
city dwellers on a provincial spree. They told lies and truths about bulls and
speculated about whether it would rain. An hour before the program started, the
sky was uniformly black and huge, intermittent drops began to fall.
There were ritual
visits to be made to the matadors' rooms to witness the dressing in the suit of
lights. Ord��ez' hair is thinning, Camino's is graying. Neither has to face
bulls for money anymore. Each is rich. With luck the crowd would see two men at
a point in their lives when they go about their craft or sullen art not for
further plaudits, not primarily for money, not even perhaps for fame but for
the most interesting of motives in any artist—to demonstrate something to
themselves about themselves and their relation to reality.
On the way to the
plaza it rained with tropical intensity. The only hope for the day was that it
would rain itself out and the sun would follow. In the plaza, attendants in
visored caps and corduroy suits frantically soaked up puddles in the sand with
large hunks of sponge, while others were spreading dry sand from handcarts. Men
from each of the camps came into the arena to test the surface with ice-skating
motions, shaking their heads dubiously. Storks, unconcerned, nested in the bell
tower of the adjacent church, straw in their beaks.
Then the bugle
sounded. There would be no postponement, no rainout. The bulls were not as old
as might ideally be desired, nor as anxious to go to the horse. But their horns
were satisfactory. And two, at least, Camino's first and Ord��ez' second, were
a good 4 years old. In fact, the animals were anything but easy. They turned
fast and tossed their heads as they charged, "eating the cloth," as the
Mexicans say. They demanded good technique from the matadors if they were to
extract from the bulls the design that their qualities and defects
The ritual parade
began, Ord��ez on the left as senior matador; a minor bullfighter, El Puno, in
the center as junior; Camino on the right. They entered wearing black armbands,
reminding the spectators of Joselito's presence looming over the Talavera
Ord��ez' fame is
so widespread that the public is more exigent of him than of any other matador.
His work to the first bull, finished by a single fine sword, would have won
almost any other man at least one ear. As it was, the crowds wanted more than
Ord��ez gave them, and he heard unmerited whistles. By the time of Ord��ez'
second bull, the fourth on the program, it was raining apocalyptically. The
bull was difficult, and Ord��ez kicked off his slippers and went all-out,
demonstrating that even with water running into his eyes and before sodden
spectators he could still generate a remarkable, almost unanalyzable degree of
emotion. He needed two swords but the crowd petitioned for and got from the
judge two ears for him.
Camino's work on
both his bulls was uniformly better. Although flashier than Ord��ez, Camino has
two styles—a restrained one for Madrid and a florid one for the provinces. For
Talavera he turned on the latter. He lost ears from his first bull because he
had trouble lining up the bull and more trouble in killing it. On his second,
he too kicked off his slippers and extracted a fine series of right-and
left-handed passes. He finished with the pass invented by Joselito, the
ki-kiri-ki, figure eight flourishes of the muleta to indicate total domination.
He killed well and was awarded two ears. What made both Ord��ez' and Camino's
performances different from most was the sense of control, together with the
impression that either man could turn on or off his finest work at will, a
sensation that goes against a demanding public's instinct but one that is the
inevitable result of mastery.