Sunday, April 11, 2010

Breeding Bulls in Cadiz

There are said to be three Anglo bullfight-appreciation associations around, one in New York, the second in London (and a very venerable club it is too) and the third being local: The Club Taurino de Mojácar.
This past weekend, the CTM filled a bus and took off for a weekend visit to the picturesque ‘white village’ or ‘pueblo blanco’ of Vejer de la Frontera in Cadiz and the chance to see around Spain’s best bull-breeding farm, the magnificent ganadería de Nuñez de Cuvillo.
I managed to wangle a seat on this trip which was organised by the Mojácar Councillor for Tourism Angel Medina together with Mike and Audrey Hathaway who tirelessly run this non-profit club as, they explain, a chance to get to know something about the real and traditional aspects of Spain.
The coach left early on Saturday morning and took the coastal route towards our destination, passing Málaga and, after a lunch-break in Torremolinos, continuing along the road past Gibraltar and the astonishing view of the Mediterranean narrows, North Africa, Ceuta and Tangiers, just apparently a stone’s-throw away. We eventually churned up the hill to Vejer de la Frontera in the mid-afternoon, where some of our 48-strong party flopped down in a handy bar as the rest were taken by a tour-guide around the dramatically beautiful hilltop town.
Vejer stands really on two hills, with the ‘old town’ – old in the days it fell to the Moorish captain Tarik (after which Gib-al-Tarik – Gibraltar was named) who thrashed the Visigoth king Don Rodrigo just below the town in 711 – and the facing ‘new town’ which is itself pretty old by anyone’s standards. The old town has a small castle, a walled inner-compound and an eccentric church which starts out at the back as a Christian building and ends up at the front as a far older mesquita, a mosque. But besides the hullabaloo of these larger attractions, the narrow white streets and steep inclines together with a modest statue of a local girl dressed with a veil, reminded me of a larger and better-kept Mojácar.
There’s a story that the Moorish prince took a Christian girl as his wife (it’s something that used to happens quite often, I’m surprised they don’t put a stop to it). The couple had to leave for North Africa when the Christians led by Sancho IV re-took Vejer in 1264. This girl, Zhora, missed her town and so the prince ordered a copy of it to be built in Morocco to cheer her up. The copy being the well-known and attractive town of Chaouen (now happily twinned with Vejer de la Frontera).
A hotel and a fine dinner awaited us that evening.
On the next day, the Sunday, the coach took us along through the rolling green hills of Cadiz to the estate of Nuñez de Cuvillo, generally accounted to be the best breeder of the Toro Bravo, the fighting bull. Here, on 2,500 hectares, the family breeds their bulls as they have done since old Joaquín bought the estate off the Osborne Domecq brothers in 1982. While not very used to tourists – I think we were the first foreign group they had received – they graciously showed us around. We saw how the four-year-olds are run, four times a day – to strengthen their legs for the corrida and we saw one of the vaqueros, the ‘cowboys’, snare a young week-old bullock and place him across his saddle to give him his ear-tag. The ganadería has an old Mexican-style farmhouse with stables and a museum, all accessed from an interior patio. José Tomás and other famous bullfighters will regularly visit to discuss and view the season’s bulls.
We were offered a splendid lunch next to their small bullring, decorated on the outside with plaques commemorating those (few) bulls known as ‘los indultados’ which are granted their freedom in the ring for uncommon bravery. Angel Medina, who had accompanied us on our trip, thanking the family on our behalf.
Our return on the bus took us along the inland route past Granada. We had travelled a long way – I wouldn’t want to drive it. Taking a comfortable bus is, oddly, a far easier way to go.

I would like to thank Mike and Audrey Hathaway for their boundless enthusiasm – they are already planning several fresh trips for the club, including one to Caravaca de la Cruz in Murcia on May 13th and a full week’s trip to Granada with hotel from May 31st coinciding with the Corpus Cristi and the corridas.


Justin Roberts said...

Sorry to be a pedant, but I think you mean Gibraltar, not Gibralter.

Lenox said...

thanks Justin - fixed it!!