Albacete, Cotolengo festival to honor Damaso.

Plaza de toros of Albacete, Sunday, May 13. 6 p.m. Charity corrida in favor of La Institución Benéfica Sagrado Corazón de Jesús de Albacete, better known as Cotolengo, a foundation for people with special needs. The poster that celebrated this 29th edition was especially emotional. Not only was it the first time without Dámaso González, its patron for all these years, it was also Albacete’s homage to an exceptional paisano and most favourite son who died in 2017. The luxury line-up of participating matadors was the following: Enrique Ponce, Miguel Ángel Perera, El Juli, Cayetano Rivera, Paco Ureña and Rubén Pinar. With bulls from Samuel Flores’ mother, Daniel Ruiz, Pedro Moya ‘El Capea’, Javier Vázquez, El Torero, Encinagrande and an eral from Sonia González for the alumno of the local escuela José Fernando Molina. This edition could only be described as a truly royal performance.

Albacete’s bullring is a delightful arena which seats about 7000. Maybe it is a bit uncomfortable but every member of the public has a wonderful view of the cream colored ring. I had never been here before and I recommend it to everyone who is in the neighborhood. The local feria is in September. Only, make sure you don’t sit contra-barrera Sol. The setting sun literally blinds you and if you don’t bring anything to shield your eyes, you won’t see anything from the third to the fifth bull. But apart from this slight hiccup, it is a beautiful plaza, with wide corridors, clean toilets, ample access and a lovely crowd of locals.

As could be expected we all rose for a minute of silence as soon as the paseillo ended to commemorate the life and times of the great Curro de Alba. His statue outside the Puerta Grande was almost invisible for the many flowers at his feet. Every matador dedicated the death of his animal to ‘the maestro en el gran palco en el cielo’ and to the family who sat together in a tendido de Sombra.

First novillo from Samuel Flores’ F- brand for Enrique Ponce, 448 kilos. (As usual every novillo came out with blunted horns.) Not even a hundred pass Ponce-faena could do anything to disguise the weaknes of the animal that showed no interest in either capote or muleta and fell down as soon as it did. Two pinchazos, an aviso and an estocada baja got it down. Ponce was awarded an ovation.

The novillo from Daniel Ruiz weighed a mere 430 kilos. The animal showed a bit more strength as its predecessor but had to be carefully toreared by Julian Lopez El Juli to keep it on its feet. (I once heard Pedro Moya El Niño de la Capea describe it as ‘a nurse taking care of an ailing patient’) Aplause for El Juli.

The novillo El Capea donated for the festival was noble and brave, although not too strong with 460 kilos on its three-year-old frame. To everyone’s surprse it went from ‘menos a mas’ and charged Miguel Angel Perrera’s muleta with great vigour. I couldn’t help thinking that it might have helped being the ganadero’s son in law. A great faena which ended in a medio estocada and a two ears trophy for the matador. The festival was under way.

Cayetano Rivera Ordoñez ‘guapo-guapo’, cut an ear from the Javier Vazquez novillo after displaying great capework’. A couple of largas cambiadas on his knees was followed by two veronicas and a media. I remember a series of great naturales with the muleta and a novillo that followed every move. An estocada hasta la bola killed the bull and although the crowd had celebrated the matador’s physical appearance from the moment he showed his face, he was awarded with one ear only.

By now the sun had finally disappeared behind some flats on the horizon and I got ready for Paco Ureña’s performance with the novillo from El Torero. (I failed to note the weight.) A miniature bull, a lovely strong and fast little burraco that put all his power in the one heavy pic and almost sent the picador and his horse flying over the woodwork. Ureña started with veronicas as painted by Ruano-Llopiz, followed by two medias and a revolera. After a great preparation by the cuadrilla, Ureña’s typical slow, concentrated muleta brought the crowd to its feet. His fine faena was awarded with one ear.

Encinagrande’s mountain of a bull (514 kilos) was no match for Ruben Pinar who thought he could torear it with delicate muletazos but failed to dominate this strong and particularly head strong animal. Dámaso González was greatly missed.

To end this fine evening of bulls, a little red eral with horns almost touching his chin jumped into the arena for José Fernando Molina, a becerrista I recognized from last years final of Malaga’s international competition for the escuelas.

Everything went well for Molina and the eral was happy to oblige. He charged his cape, went for his muleta and, in general terms, gave the novillero the time of his life. Two ears, and the tail for the boy and a slow lap of honor for the eral of Sonia González’ ganaderia.

Oh… and if you do get to Albacete, try the local delicacy queso frito, small cubes of goat’s cheese slightly fried which you dip in black currant jam. You’ll order another helping.

Cronica de Pieter Hildering

Fotografias de Mercedes Rodriguez