Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Mexicali, located south of El Centro, California, has long been a popular border town destination for travelers. Over the decades, bullfighting has thrived there.

For decades, a  wooden ring held corridas with Armillita, Joselito Mendez and  others beign seen. Sadly, this ring burned down in a fire in 1955 and the owner, Santiago Alvarez, died from a heart attack before it could be built.

An odd sidenote would be continual appearances by the fickle Lorenzo Garza. One account has people objecting to his plan to make a farewell appearance in this ring, because over the years he had already "retired' and returned at least 3 times.

In the years that followed, people just went to Tijuana or San Luis Rio Colorado for corridas, but in the early 1970s an effort was made to hold novilladas in the lienzo charro or rodeo ring. Various obscure novilleros  appeared there with moderate success. The high point came when Eliseo Gomez "El Charro" who lived in nearby Tecate made an appear  in a mixta alternating with unknown novillero Luis Martinez.These novilladas would sett he stage for the return of bullfighting on a major scale , with the construction of the 10,000 seat Plaza Calafia

In the early seasons, the promotion would book not one but three figuras for the cartel.  Manolo Martinez would become a regular, where he established himself as a major attraction. On one afternoon he faced and killed six bulls himself as lone matador.

Curro Rivera would become another figura to achieve maximum prestige in this ring, He would be seen on numerous afternoons and score triumphs though a much hyped mano a mano saw him come out on the short end when competing with Eloy Cavazos. The normally popular Rivera encountered problems with the sword and cut nothing where Cavazos cut an ear form two of his three bulls and received a vuelta from the other.

Others to appear in the early history of the plaza were Jaime Ostos, Paco Camino, Antonio Lomelin, Cruz Flores, Bernardo Valencia, El Queretano, Marcos Ortega, Mariano Ramos, Jesus Solorznao, Manolo Mejia  and Ernesto Belmont.

In the 1990s, David and Alejandro Silveti became the toreros to watch. On occasion the two brothers appeared together, as in one 1991 corrida where unexpectedly, Jesus Solorzano stole the show when his second bull of the day received an indulto due to bravery and was sent back tot he corrals alive.

Alejandro was especially known for his faenas and for his performance of the pendulo pass with the muleta  where he shifted the lure and took the bull behind his back.

In recent years the temporada have not been as spectacular as they once were. The promotion has changed hands a few times. Other events such as concerts and wrestling have also been held in the Calafia. Still, the beautiful bullring remains a focal point for border bullfights.

Others who have appeared over the years in La Calafia include Manolo Arruza, Pana, Zotoluco, Chilolo, Napoleon, Fernando Ochoa, Glison  and Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza.

No one has ever been killed in La Calafia, but the banderillero Pepe Luna took a major leg wound that ruptured the femoral artery while in the cuadrilla of Manolo Arruza. Alarm went through the stands as the corrida continued and gossip circulated that the man had died, when he in fact had not, but would survive and return to the ring some weeks later as good as new.

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