"El Jaral de Peñas"
The ganadería, breeding ranch of toros bravos “Jaral de Peñas” is located near the pueblo of Tequisquiapan in the central Mexican state of Queretaro.
The ganadero, Don Luis Barroso Barona is one of Mexico’s legendary breeders of fighting bulls. In the nineteen sixties his bulls were so renowned that they were transported to Madrid and given the honor of being presented in the world’s most prestigious plaza de toros, “Las Ventas”.
With bulls, as with human beings, the prime ingredients in building a strong healthy body are diet and exercise. For exercise, Don Luis has constructed a torodrome on his ranch, a running track almost a mile in length. Approximately the same distance the bulls run from the corrals to the plaza de toros in Pamplona each July day during the Feria de San Fermin.
Every other day his bulls are released from the corrals and with a vaquero mounted on a strong horse behind them, they go for a run in the country. It gives them exercise, increases their lung capacity and builds stamina.
From a small building constructed at the entrance of the track, we can watch as the bulls leave the corrals and come charging towards us, the clods of dirt flying from their hoofs.
As they pass within a few feet of our safe haven you can feel the vibrations of their hoofs striking the earth as it comes up through the soles of your boots, and smell that special odor that is ganado bravo as they turn and run away from us until they are lost in a huge opaque cloud.
They are lost from our sight but we know where they are, each of us is watching the dirt cloud and we know that just in front of it, are the bulls! And even though we can’t see them well over the tops of the green mesquite trees, we can envision them galloping up the hill their leg muscles stretching, their chest’s heaving with each deep breath, their tails flying, their heads bobbing in rhythm, a mass of taurine power on the hoof!
As the sound of their hooves recedes the small building where we are waiting becomes quiet and it seems cooler, and then you realize the temperature that has changed is your own. The excitement you had felt as the bulls went by close to you had heated the blood running through your veins and your breathing had quickened.
You strain to watch the end of the road through the glare as the cloud gets close to the turn and then they come into view, their bodies leaning into the turn as they come around the corner and start down the road towards us.
At first they appear as a mirage, the bright light released from the hot Mexican sun reflecting off the nearly white dirt of the high desert. The dust disturbed by their hooves is so dry that it envelops them and they appear to be floating in a huge diaphanous cloud.
With each moment that passes, each stretch of their powerful forelegs they come closer. You begin to be able to pick out the difference in the coloring of their hides the pintas, and watch as they move from one side to the other, finding different positions in the galloping group.
It is a unique experience seeing fighting bulls in campo bravo and it is extremely rare to have the opportunity to see them running in a group, an encierro. Or to sense their power coming at you closer and closer with each stride.
If you are in the streets of Pamplona you can almost feel it but you’re senses are not allowed to run free, they are impeded by the mass of humanity surrounding you and your sudden need for self preservation.
It seems strange to think that one who has aficion and feels the need to experience Pamplona, a chance to be next to and run with brave bulls but after a few minutes in the street you realize that the animals that you are afraid of aren’t the toros with sharp horns, but the crowd of humans that surround you!
The beauty of running bulls becomes unnatural on city streets enclosed by buildings, and your desire to witness their beauty changes to the primary need to protect yourself from the pushing and shoving of the anxious partiers-runners as they jockey for position, the fear of being trampled by the mob!
As the encierro comes closer, their image grows! You can see the vaquero waving his rope and although you can’t hear his yells, you can imagine them and the sound the coiled rope makes as it slaps his leather saddle.
As they close the space between us you can see the different characteristics of individual bulls, the oval markings around their eyes, the shape of their horns and you begin to hear and feel the thunder of their hooves striking the packed earth.
As they come closer, they tighten up the group to go through the gate next to us. Each of them weighing over a thousand pounds and after a mile run in the heat of the day they arrive with their mouths closed, not breathing hard like the healthy athletes they are.
And each of them as he passes, looks at you with that disinterested gaze typical of ganado bravo, the proud look in their eyes and in their physical presence that reveals to you how insignificant we humans are to them. La Mirada, the defiant, arrogant stare of his majesty: El Toro Bravo!
Jason C. Morgan