Ferdinand Forever

I saw on the front page of this past Sunday’s The New York Times that, after months of controversy, Mexico City opened its bullring, the largest in the world, for a bullfight. It surprised me to see so much coverage to this issue, with all the world conflicts taking place. I thought about bullfighting in Spain, where it’s also controversial but legal in most of the country, although not in Asturias, Catalonia and the Canary Islands.

When I was growing up, we never talked or went to a bullfight. In fact, I had to look on Google to find where Las Ventas, the bullring in Madrid, is located. The only bulls I remember seeing in my home were the engravings in Goya’s Tauromaquia in sepia tones and the black and white sketches by Pablo Picasso of the corrida. I’m sure that my family associated bullfighting with the Franco regime and his right-wing policies. Although we didn’t have a TV then I did see Franco with his wife and daughter all dressed up with mantones de Manila (silk embroidered shawls) on the first rows of the Sunday bullfights in the NODO (the national documentary series projected at the movie theaters).

In El Escorial, where my parents had a summer place, there is a small bullring that has been closed down since 2014 and is now on sale for six million Euros, in case you are looking for an interesting venue. During my first marriage, my husband insisted in going to see a bullfight, he hadn’t read Hemingway for nothing. I accompanied him on a very hot afternoon and I remember smelling the warm blood in the small Plaza de Toros. He also ran with the bulls in Pamplona, another ode to Hemingway; that time I waited in San Sebastian with our two young daughters playing with paper dolls until he returned.

Of course, I’m fully aware that I’m not so blameless, since one of my favorite restaurants in Madrid was Viridiana (yes, after Buñuel’s film), where chef Abraham García Cano served oxtail and other delicacies from the bulls of the afternoon corridas. The restaurant closed this past New Year’s Eve and many of its accruements, the dishes and the famous black and white photographs from its walls were sold, starting at 10 Euros. Welcome to the politically correct Spain!

One of my daughters’ preferred books when they were little was The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf: “This is the story of Ferdinand—a little bull who would rather sit and smell the flowers than fight in the bullring,” says the back cover. My favorite part of the book is the illustrations by Robert Lawson; he makes fun of the Banderilleros, the Picadores and the Matador “who was scared stiff.” Actually, during the summer we could see the huge black bulls sitting in the shade by the meadows as we approached El Escorial. And we always remembered sweet Ferdinand.

In a touch of homesickness so typical in me, I looked in Amazon for Ferdinand, and there he was in a brand-new edition of 2011, identical to the one I remembered from 1936. Although I try to shop local, I ordered it immediately; it’s sitting on my nightside table, waiting to be read.

6 Responses to Ferdinand Forever

  1. conchaalborg says:

    Hola, Concha! I am not so innocent, having attended a bullfight in Madrid in 1970. The chaperone of my high school study group there was a modern youngish Mexican American nun from California. I don’t recall whether she accompanied us to the bullring.
    Susan y Larry
    Hola, Susan!
    It sounds like you and Larry are having a wonderful time! We had another snow storm here, beautiful and short lived!
    Jaume Plensa is growing on me. Please take a photo of the seven Buddhas.
    Abrazos, Concha

  2. conchaalborg says:

    Querida Concha,
    Acabo de darme cuenta de que puedo leer tu Blog en español o en inglés. Lo lei en inglés y ahora me encuentro la versión en español. No lo sabía. Me gusta leerlo. Me gusta ver cómo lo mantienes y como vas relacionando todas las entradas con tu doble identidad de española y americana.
    Te mando un abrazo muy grande, Inés
    Querida Inés,
    No sabía lo del blog en español. Voy a mirarlo y compartirlo con mis lectores. Disfruto de escribirlo y me mantiene pendiente de ideas.
    Te devuelvo un abrazo muy fuerte, hasta que podamos vernos de nuevo, Concha

  3. conchaalborg says:

    Oh I remember that book from childhood too!
    Grazie for the memory
    So fun to share memories! Concha

  4. conchaalborg says:

    Thanks, Concha.
    Nice to read!
    Hope all’s well with you,

    Thanks, Jan.
    A big hug for you and Susan, Concha

  5. Nancy Nance says:

    My children loved Ferdinand. I love Ferdinand.