My season came to an end on Sunday, October 13, 2019, after an excellent novillada sin pics in the white-plastered, 110-year-old plaza de toros of Chelva in which three young novilleros were carried out on shoulders. Little did I know that not long after, the world would grind to a halt and all taurine events, including all major ferias were called off. 

So what was my 2020 season like? 

It started in March with the cancellation of my flight to Valencia after the suspension of Fallas and the very professional way Simon Casas Productions handled the refund of my abono. For the first time in 40 years I would not attend a corrida or see the inside of a plaza de toros for a year. To get through it I would have to pray for inspiration, rely on my memory and use my imagination. 

My personal homage to Vicente Ruiz El Soro appeared in the March/April edition of La Divisa, the magazine of the Club Taurino of London. Almost simultaneously it was on the front page of Las Noticias, the newsletter of the San Franciscan peña taurina Sol y Sombra and became part of the inimitable Tauroimagenplus. In June EuroToro2010, a taurine website based in Madrid, included it in its collection of articles. In 2020 I wrote more than a dozen stories and articles which all appeared in the above-mentioned taurine media. They ranged from looking back on the 100th anniversary of the death of Manuel Granero to El Niño de la Monjas to remembering the bulls Algodonero and Albardanero, voted best bulls of the Valencian feria de Julio of 1988 and 1989. Spain already met the American marine Riley ‘Angel’ Martin and his taurine debut in September 1959 in the bullring at El Puerto de Santa Maria. He will be introduced to the American aficionados in the new year. I wrote about the 30th anniversary of the alternativa of Víctor Manuel Blázquez and recalled the corrida in Madrid, when Manolo Sales, El Melenas and Curro Valencia asked for an opportunity to prove themselves as matadors. 

Spain’s cultural identity also inspired me to design several new taurine posters for my friends in Utiel who in October 2019 honored me for my “invaluable collaboration with the peña taurina La Utielana”. These taurine posters are theirs to use at their leisure.

In the months following lockdown, the new Spanish political party Podemos and using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse, again called for a ban on bullfighting underlining its claim that Spain now was a modern country with a cultural identity which had no place for such “cruel” pastimes. In Parliament Pablo Iglesias openly spoke of his reluctance to support bullfighting. In June and despite Iglesias’ shameless remarks, restrictions eased and plazas de toros were allowed to organize corridas on a smaller scale. Public attendance was limited to 30 percent of the arena’s capacity, face masks were compulsory and visitors were to sit 1.5 meters apart. It was remarkable to see the aficionados comply with these new rules, once again proof of the fine manners displayed by visitors to the bullfights. 

In August the magnificently decorated plaza de toros of Sanlúcar de Barrameda celebrated its II Corrida Magallánica with toros from Miura for Manuel Escribano, Daniel Luque y Pepe Moral. And through the efforts of the Fundación del Toro de Lidia and Movistar’s Canal Toros+ events became available on line for aficionados all over the world. Thanks to La Gira de Reconstrucción we were able to see toros, novillos and corridas de rejones in bullrings from Ubeda to Antequera and from Ubrique to Montoro. We saw Miuras and Victorinos in Logroño and bulls from Nuñez de Cuvillo and Alcurrucén. Zalduendos and novillos from El Pilar. We saw Ponce triumph in Cabra, applauded Pepe Moral for his faena with a Miura and watched Saúl Jiménez ‘Fortes’ leave through the main gate in Estepona after a magnificent performance with Montalvo bulls. CMM TV (the public channel of the autonomous region of Castilla-La Mancha) was present at novilladas from the escuelas taurinas and Canal Sur TV gave us a corrida form Osuna with Enrique Ponce and Javier Conde. Paco Ureña appeared in the bullring of El Espinar and Miguel Tendero triumphed in Villamalea.

So what else happened in my 2020 taurine season? In September I received the sad news that Emilio Gil, one of the young employees of the Valencia bullring and a long time friend had died after an intense battle with the cruelest of diseases. He will be sadly missed.

Let’s hope we can leave all misery behind us in the coming season. Taurine 2020 may have had its restrictions, it has also showed the resilience of the mundo de los toros and has proved that it is very much part of Spanish culture. Instead of banning it, we should support it in every way we can.

Crónica de Pieter Hildering