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Crowd thrills at bullfighter's brush with death, defeat of ‘a strong and brave bull'

May 07, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

MEXICALI — Pinned between the horns of a bloody and deranged black bull, Mexican bullfighter Guillermo Veloz, "El Pausado," no longer fought the bull but for his life.

To his right, a flash of pink from the wave of a cape, an urgent shout of "Toro!"

The bull, distracted and stripped of cognizant thought by two rounds of spear thrusts, turned his head toward the color, horns narrowly avoiding Veloz's throat.

As Veloz scrambled from under the bull, his "Suit of Lights" smeared with blood, he narrowly avoided the bull's cloven hooves and made it to the safety of the barrier on the edge of the bull ring.

His assistant gave him a sword. The music and the clapping from the audience reached a fever pitch.

When Veloz stepped back into the ring to rejoin the battle with the bull and finish the fight, he did so with no shoes covering his pink socks and a look on his face that made the placement of the final sword seem personal.


Veloz's intense brush with death and his eventual defeat of a strong and brave bull were the highlights of the second bullfighting event of the season at the Calafia bull ring in Mexicali.

Joining Veloz, a native of Apizaco, Tlaxcala, on Sunday's card were local favorite Rafael Ortega, also from Apizaco, and Antonio Barrera of Seville, Spain.

Ortega showed why he is a local favorite with fine professional performances against both of the bulls he fought. Each bullfighter fought two bulls.

Barrera, showcasing his skills in "par de rodillas," fought from his knees and drew rave response with his series of veronicas, the leading swirls of his cape.

The crowd chanted, "Ole!, Ole! Ole!," getting louder with each, "Ole!" as Barrera worked the bull back and forth around the ring.

He had problems, however, with the placement of the final sword into one of his bulls and the audience let him know with whistles and audible gasps.

After Barrera and Ortega fought, the 22-year-old Veloz stepped into the ring wearing a lime green and gold "suit of lights."

It was Veloz, a bullfighter who fights in the style of the Mexican legend "El Pana," who created the most memorable moments of Sunday's corrida, or "event."

Described as flashy and brash, Veloz was serious and somber before stepping into the ring.

Standing in the tunnel waiting to make his way into the ring, Veloz was asked if he was nervous.

"I'm a little nervous," he said. "Clearly, one has to be."

Throughout his two bullfights he showed why.

Against his first bull, Veloz stood next to the red wall of the ring and turned his back on the bull in a show of bravado.

His assistants, standing behind the ring, smacked their capes over the wall and herded the bull to where Veloz was strutting.

The bull saw one cape, missed, a second, missed again; then saw Veloz holding two spears with barbed tips in one hand.

The speed of the bull looked to catch Veloz off guard.

As Veloz spun out of the way, he brushed against the wall, the horns of the bull barely missing his spleen, and threw the barbed spears over his head into the bull's neck muscles.

The move is called "par de Calafia" because "El Pana" used the technique to great acclaim in the Calafia bull ring.

A roar went up from the crowd in appreciation of his skill and in memory of "El Pana."

Against the second bull he would perform two of these maneuvers. For his third placement of the spiked barbs (each bull is stuck with six barbs in the second "round" of the bullfight) he broke the spears in half so they were shorter. This meant he would have to get even closer to the bull for the placement.

He did so to great acclaim.

After he landed all six barbs in the bull's back, Veloz was handed his red cape and his sword for the final placement.

After a few passes and veronicas, Veloz performed a maneuver wherein he held the cape in the bull's face, held his free hand on the bull's rump and twirled in a pirouette once, twice and — he didn't make the third revolution.

The bull ring was quiet except for the scream of women.

Veloz was pinned.

Even though it seemed to last for hours, Veloz was freed with the flash of a cape.

He resumed the fight against the bull in his pink socks, his shoes embedded in the moist earth of the ring.

After a few passes, or "paenas," to tire the bull, Veloz delivered a fine placement of the final sword to the bull's neck.

The bull dropped to one, then two knees, finally collapsing to one side.

An ear was cut off and handed to Veloz. He held the ear aloft, a reward for a good fight, as he paraded around the ring to applause.

After the corrida in the tunnel, Veloz signed autographs.

A man shouted over the adorations of the crowd pressed around him.

"No problemas, eh?"

Veloz shot him a look and continued to sign, "Who was that to?"

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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