On January 24th the Winter Ranch Bus took a full busload to the Bull Fighting Ring at LaGloria, Texas. Bull fighting is a sport dating back centuries to Spain, Portugal and Mexico. Now the tradition is taking place at a ranch in deep South Texas, with a twist. The bull fights at LaGloria are bloodless. Hundred come to watch bullfights that end not with a sword, but when the matador plucks a flower from the back of a bull.
The entrance to the Santa Maria Bull Ring in La Gloria, Texas
This entrance is where the parade comes into the ring, We got into the stands to the side of this entrance and up a bunch of metal stairs.
The small brown gate top right is where the bulls enter the ring. The feisty ones seem to come out rear-end first and kicking!
Some of us paid five extra dollars to sit in the shade and they were in the shade awhile after we arrived. Lee Clement took this side so he might get better pictures. He took pictures of our side and we took pictures of his.
Here’s a bunch of us on the sunny side. We were some of the first people here so the stands are still empty at this point.
From this sign at first I thought maybe these bulls ended up at this place, however, then I remembered these are “bloodless bullfights”.
When we arrived there were a couple of bulls that needed to be put into different pens so we went over and watched the action behind the scenes for awhile.
This bull did not want to head back to where they wanted him. He kept kicking up the dust and bellowing at the team trying to get him moved.
This is where he was headed. That second bull put up quite a fight. They got him past the first pen and slammed the gate but he turned right around knocked the gate back open and raised a lot of dust. Then they had to start all over again. They finally managed to get him where he was supposed to go.
More of our bunch waiting for some action
The Master of Ceremonies
This beautiful young lady had a very strong voice and sang a few mariachi songs for us prior to the bullfights. She was awesome!
This is Fred Renk announcing the action at the bull fights
The parade into the bullring begins. The two horses coming in first have performed at the Rose Bowl Parade for a few years.
Lee Clement and the Sharon and Gary Dagsgard
Heading back out so the bullfights can begin
Young Lady Announcing the first Matador Guillermo Ibarra
They couldn’t pay me enough to open this gate and let the bulls in and then close it when they leave!
The first bull comes out strong!
Guillermo Ibarra is the top ranked matador in Mexico
Matador Down – this got really exciting and terrifying!
Help has arrived!
Talk about exciting and scary!
The bull is finally distracted
Thanks to Lee Clement for these pictures. We were too horrified to snap any while this was going on!
This young matador keeps him away until the other Matador can get back up and we all wait with baited breath to see if he is okay and not heading to a hospital! It can be bloodless for the bull but not so for the Matador.
This young matador had some really good moves and no fear!
The next Matador was Cesar Castaneda. He is currently ranked No. 4 in Mexico. He certainly put on a show today. We couldn’t believe this guy he got so close to the bull and just kept his coming at him without any problem and this bull was feisty. By the time it was over the bull almost looked hypnotized.
The crowd waves white flags in both hands to recommend to the judges that this matador should get two ears and a tail which is the highest prize.
The crowd throwing flowers to show their appreciation for a well fought fight.
Cesar Castaneda certainly outdid the No. 1 Matador today. The bulls never got close to getting him down but he sure let them in close enough!
He was awarded two ears and a tail for this last performance!
Between fights the bull-fighting zamboni comes in to fix the rink floor.
I think they stole this from an Iowa Corn Field!
Larry and Dody Anenson and the Don and Pam Hoppe
Guillermo Ibarra, from the first fight, came back for the second go around. He didn’t look to much the worse for wear but I would think he was shaking in his boots! Guillermo Ibarra went down again with this bull but he wasn’t down as long as the first time.
Matador Guillermo Ibarra
More of our crowd
Donna and Jack Hulsey
Mary and Lee Benfield
Madador Cesar Castaneda in action
I found this article from Texas Monthly written by Katy Vine in 2014 that really gives some history on Fred Renk, his family and this bull fighting ring. I thought you might enjoy reading it.
“Fred Renk, a water-purifier salesman living near the border, hatched a bullish idea. He’d been obsessed with matadors ever since the age of fifteen, when he watched the Mexican bullfighter Pepe Luis Vázquez perform at a ring in Chihuahua City called La Esperanza. When Renk was in his twenties, he’d even decided to try the sport himself. He fought bulls for five years as an aspiring matador, until a thousand-pound beast’s horn punctured his upper leg and tore through his stomach, in 1967. Later, he watched his son David become the seventh American bullfighter to earn the title of matador, performing all over Mexico as “El Texano.”
After his son’s retirement, in 2000, Renk began to miss the drama of the ring. He was restless at his rural home in La Gloria, population 100, and fantasized about bulls pretty much constantly. He decided to build a bullfighting ring on his sixty-acre ranch. Never mind that he would have difficulty drawing a crowd to his town, about 55 miles northwest of McAllen, and that Americans weren’t interested in the sport. (Only a handful of permanent rings currently exist in the United States—all in California and all supported by Portuguese communities.) But Renk, who was 65 at the time, was tenacious, and he was experienced, having organized and promoted bullfights in places like the Astrodome in the eighties. David, now 51, lives just down the road and remembers, “His determination was off the charts.” One day, Renk marched a few yards away from his ranch gate into a pasture shaded by mesquite and ebony trees and began measuring paces for a ring one hundred feet across.
“I call it the ballet of life, not the ballet of death,” the 77-year-old said on a sunny morning this past spring, in a voice hoarse from Marlboros. Behind a fence, a herd of 29 cows—and one four-year-old San Mateo breeding bull, who often participates in the events at Renk’s Santa Maria Bullring—grazed in a field dotted with magenta winecups. Though traditional bullfighting is practiced on the Mexican side of the border, it is illegal in the United States, and in Renk’s ring, the bullfighter’s kill is only symbolic: instead of driving a sword through the animal’s withers and into its heart, the matador reaches over the bull’s horns and plucks a flower affixed to the hide with Velcro and a little glue, an action that requires a close dance with the animal and thus drives crowds to their feet.
Everyone told him he was crazy to open a bullfighting ring so far from a metropolitan area, but those detractors hadn’t anticipated who would show up: the winter Texans. His first event, in 2001, packed the stands, exceeding his expectations, and while violence along the border has scared off some customers in the past couple of years, busloads of tourists still travel from nearby RV parks to his ring, which has a seating capacity of around one thousand (“depending on how wide their butts are”).
The tourists who make the journey and the local ranchers who keep box seats for the main season, from January through March, have witnessed shows by some of Mexico’s best matadors. Last February, for example, Renk brought in Cesar Castañeda, a world-class matador from Tijuana, and Isaac Leal Montalvo, a young matador from Monterrey. No matter their prominence, though, it’s the female bullfighters who make the strongest impression, Renk says. “You talk about a matador, they don’t know who the hell he is, but the ‘Mayan Princess’ . . .” he trails off, nodding knowingly.
Renk has watched his fights captivate fans, even though many don’t follow the sport. “The Spaniards—all Latin people—refer to the passion for bullfighting as el gusano, the worm, and it eats at you the rest of your life. El gusano never leaves you.” —Katy Vine”