I chanced upon this pair of novilleros, or apprentice bullfighters, one afternoon while walking in Viveros de Coyoacan, Mexico City’s combination plant nursery and public park. The incongruous sight of a young man wielding the magenta and gold capote while wearing gym clothes caught my eye. That alone would have been fascinating – that his opponent was a guy pushing a wheeled set of bullhorns made this moment one of my most unusual and treasured times in the Federal District.
It takes many years for a novillero to progress from student to torrero, the fabled men (and now women, too) who wear the glittering suit of lights and compete in stadiums like Mexico City’s 48,000-seat Plaza Mexico. The word novillero is derived from the term for young bulls – novillo. Even these developing animals can be dangerous, and the apprentices must spend hours practicing their moves – hence, the invention of the wheeled bullhorn.
In the photo, the novillero practices a paso de redondo, in which the bull is guided in a circular path around the fighter. The novillero’s stance hasn’t yet acquired the taut grace found in the sport’s finest practictioners. But, with dedication like this I can only imagine that the proud, arrogant matador de toros in him will soon emerge.