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US The Last Bullfight: Texas' Only Home for Matadors Is on Brink of Closing

05:30  23 january  2020
05:30  23 january  2020 Source:   online.wsj.com

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LA GLORIA, Texas —On Sunday’s opening day in Texas ’ only bullfighting ring, a mariachi version of “The Star Spangled Banner” played before a matadora Mr. Renk has hosted bullfights for 20 years here on his ranch, in the traditional Spanish style but with one key difference: No one injures the bulls .

LA GLORIA, Texas —On Sunday’s opening day in Texas ’ only bullfighting ring, a mariachi version of “The Star Spangled Banner” played before a matadora dressed in gold sequins waved her cape at a passing bull and the crowd rumbled its first “Olé!” From the announcer’s booth

  The Last Bullfight: Texas' Only Home for Matadors Is on Brink of Closing © Christopher Lee for The Wall Street Journal

LA GLORIA, Texas—On Sunday’s opening day in Texas’ only bullfighting ring, a mariachi version of “The Star Spangled Banner” played before a matadora dressed in gold sequins waved her cape at a passing bull and the crowd rumbled its first “Olé!”

From the announcer’s booth, 83-year-old Fred Renk warned that the bull had spunk. Mr. Renk has hosted bullfights for 20 years here on his ranch, in the traditional Spanish style but with one key difference: No one injures the bulls. Instead of killing the animal at the end of the fight, which would be illegal, the bullfighters pluck a flower from the spot where a sword would be thrust.

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Home . Fact Checks. From that day forward he became an opponent of bullfights . Múnera didn’t undergo his epiphany against bullfighting in the middle of a bullfight ; he stopped participating in that activity only when he was forced out of the ring for good after a goring permanently paralyzed him.

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Bullfights were once a popular diversion along the U.S.-Mexico border that Americans traveled south to see. But many have come to consider the infliction of pain on bulls for sport to be barbaric, while cartel violence has contributed to many rings shuttering in Mexico. Additionally, the sport is becoming increasingly controversial in Mexico and Spain, while in the U.S., only bloodless versions have been permitted under state and federal law since the 1950s.

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Darkest Dungeon - Teetering On The Brink . Cyrus Weatherbee.

This season, which saw the first of two events Sunday, will be the last for Mr. Renk. After finishing his own career in Mexican bullfighting and raising the top-ranked matador in the U.S., he built the Santa Maria Bullring here in 2000. He then lost two sons in accidents he blames on the sport. Now he says he will try to sell the ring after 2020’s last fight next month.

“It’s my whole life,” he said of bullfighting.

Mario Alvarado, superintendent of the local San Isidro school district, said it was mysterious when a bullring appeared there. But eventually the Renks became part of the community and the district began taking students there to teach them about Spanish and Mexican culture. That will be missed with the ring’s closure, he said.

“I don’t know how many places do something like this,” he said. “It’s a unique experience that now will not be available.”

If it closes, bullfighting aficionados say they know of only one other permanent operation in the U.S where one can see bullfighting in the traditional Spanish style: A Portuguese-American community in California hosts annual fights in Artesia, south of Los Angeles, and Thornton, near Sacramento.

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8 — Shortly after the last bullfight of the day got under way at the Plaza de Santa Fe here, the Plaza's band broke into a loud, brassy and somewhat off‐key According to posters promoting the day's bullfight , the 15-year-old matador is the youngest bullfighter on the continent. And he is one of only

Supporters of bullfighting accused Catalan nationalists of hijacking the anti- bullfighting campaign for political purposes, to highlight their independence from A worker puts up a poster by Balearic artist Miquel Barcelo, painted for his bullfighter friend Jose Tomas to mark the last bullfight in Catalonia.

Some in the crowd on Sunday’s opening day said they had never seen a bullfight before and appreciated Mr. Renk’s explanations of each step over the public-address system such as the names of passes like “veronica” and “remate” and when the fighter had to request permission to continue the fight. Others said they had come for years, gotten to know Mr. Renk, and were sad the colorful annual events would be no more.

Mr. Renk saw his first bullfight in the Mexican state of Chihuahua while studying to be a priest. He later abandoned that plan and went into the water-treatment business in California.

But the draw of that first bullfight stuck with him. He began spending his Sundays at the fights in Tijuana. Then, he picked up the sword and cape himself. He trained for six months and started fighting bulls in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso.

One day, Mr. Renk said, he saw a beautiful blonde woman in the stands. After killing the bull, he threw her the ear he had won and asked her to lunch. Her name was Barbara. Three weeks later, they were married.

She had a 2-year-old son named David. The first time he met the boy, Mr. Renk recalled, “I said, ‘Come here’ and, boy, he got a hold of me.”

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The matador José Tomás, who cultivates an air of mystery by performing infrequently, met his match in Bellotero on Sunday in Mexico City.Credit Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times.

Bull 1, matador 0: Spanish bullfighter Rafael Cerro is gored in his backside as he is thrown into the air by the charging bull . Painful: Cerro's costume is ripped as the bull lifts him into the air in front of hundreds of fans at the Las Ventas bullring in Madrid. Eye-watering: Cerro has only recently returned

In 1967, a bull in Juarez brutally gored Mr. Renk, nearly killing him and ending his career. It didn’t dissuade the boy from wanting to follow in his adoptive father’s footsteps. David began fighting himself and in 1981, at the age of 18, he became only the sixth American ever to officially reach matador status. They called him “El Texano.”

Fred Renk fought and cajoled to get David Renk into fights at the prestigious Plaza Mexico, the largest bullring in the world. He is the only American to date who has been confirmed as a matador in that ring, bullfighting expert Jim Verner said.

“It was always Fred and David, taking him and making him a matador,” said Lisa Renk, who married Fred in 1991 after Barbara died. “Fred Renk is the gringo that penetrated that world down there.”

The Renks bought a property in a remote, unincorporated area of South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, about an hour north of the border, where Fred began building a bullring. David Renk retired from professional bullfighting and built a house down the road. His younger brother, Fred Renk III, known as Binker, managed the property and cared for the bulls.

In 2006, Binker Renk was moving bulls when one caught him in the chest, smashing him against a barricade. Six months later, at 36, he died of a blood clot that traveled to his brain.

That same year, David Renk was fighting in the family ring when a bull fell on top of him, crushing his lung and ribs. Within months, he began having heart problems. He died in 2018 at 55. Hundreds came to the ranch to bid goodbye to El Texano, whose ashes were scattered by his father in the ring.

It is not clear the accidents with the bulls caused the younger Renks’ deaths, but Fred Renk believes the traumas caused heart damage. His grief, however, hasn’t changed his love of the sport. Accidents happen in bullfighting, he said.

Over the years, his ring became a place where up-and-coming toreros in Mexico made the trip to fight. Mr. Verner, a 77-year-old who has been fighting bulls 57 years, is an annual participant. Mr. Renk picks up the cape occasionally, including in 2016, when he fought a bull on his 80th birthday, a cigarette in one hand as he made passes.

“The desire to go on, it was for David,” Mr. Renk said about his bullfighting arena, tearing up. “That’s the sad part. That’s what I built it for.”

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