“What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas” is the maxim that governs this city. In keeping with that, bullfights now have returned here and might possibly stay for good.
Or at least so says the man who brought them back to Sin City after more than 40 years.
“People will come to Las Vegas to see bulls, I’m sure,” Pedro Haces, the head of Don Bull Productions, the firm that made the return of bullfighting possible, told Efe. “Today (Monday) is a day that will go down in history. For the first time, a bullfighting season is starting in the United States, with or without purism.”
The bullfighting performed in Las Vegas was and will be more of a “show” than a traditional bullfight. Above all, because no blood will flow (at least from the bulls) since Nevada state laws prohibit it.
Many had hoped for a sell-out crowd on Monday in the equestrian complex at the South Point Hotel, which has a capacity of 4,400 people and is just 15 minutes by car from the main avenue in Las Vegas, but actually there were only about 500 spectators to view “Zotoluco,” Alfredo Rios (“El Conde”) and Julio Benitez (“El Cordobes”) in action.
“It won’t be full,” Haces predicted before the beginning of the event. “But this will go from few to more. Rome wasn’t built in a day! And when people see that this is serious, they’ll have to make reservations early to get tickets,” the promoter asserted optimistically.
These days, Haces is thinking about the origins of Las Vegas and about the rodeo, stirred up by the words of some of the city’s veteran businessmen.
“Las Vegas was born 105 years ago and when its founders said it was going to be a gaming city, it created controversy and nobody believed them. Today, it’s the entertainment capital. And at the first rodeo show here, (only) 14 people attended,” he remarked hopefully.
Haces said his aim is to export the Spanish festival and tradition, although these will be adapted to conform with U.S. laws.
“We’re in the U.S. with both feet. We’re exporting bullfighting, which is an art, and the bullfighters are artists. I want the public all over the world to know and learn what this is,” he said.
But the contests will be a little different from how they are staged elsewhere. A covered bullring, air conditioning turned up high, a big screen high up in the arena like at NBA games, the bulls outfitted with velcro on their backs to simulate the use of the banderillas, and – yes – a mariachi band that plays non-stop.
For Prabhakar Pise, 63 – who waited impatiently for the first bull to appear along with the rest of his family – the differences were not important.
“It’s the first time in my life that I’ve attended a bullfight,” he told Efe. “I’ve seen them before on television and I wanted to see it live. It’s exciting,” he added.
The bulls played hard to get and the contests got started an hour late. The national anthems of the United States, Mexico and Spain were played first, another traditional element of U.S. sports events, and then things got under way.
Thus began the first bullfight in Las Vegas since 1965, and even if it was not a success in terms of the size of the crowd, it left everyone satisfied and wanting to see another.
“I think it’s a good show,” Arturo Aguirre, of Durango, Mexico, told Efe. “There was a lack of advertising, people didn’t know about it, but they gave us bullfighters with experience and very good bulls, which is the main thing we want to see,” he said.
“There are not many events like this,” said Luis Peña, of Jalisco, Mexico. “We’d like it if there were more in the future.”
For the moment, the two men can get ready for new bullfights at the end of the month, featuring matadors such as Jose Ortega Cano, Enrique Ponce, Javier Conde, Julian Lopez (“El Juli”), David Fandila (“El Fandi”) and Francisco Rivera Ordoñez.
And there are already companies that are arranging week-long tourist packages from Spain, with the option of visiting the Grand Canyon, San Francisco and Yosemite National Park, for about 1,400 euros ($2,000), excluding the price of the bullfights, which run from $60 to $650.
Michel Biosca, the manager of a company that promotes Spanish businesses in las Vegas, said it clearly: “It’s 100 percent Spanish. I think this can be very positive for attracting tourism ... from our country.” EFE