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Demolition of Historic Tijuana Bullring Draws Mixed Reactions

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A Tijuana institution is being torn down. Wrecking crews have begun demolishing the city’s bullring. The “Toreo Tijuana” has been a landmark for nearly 70 years. Some in the city are fighting to pr

Demolition of Historic Tijuana Bullring Draws Mixed Reactions

Photo: Tijuana's historic bullring, the Toreo de Tijuana is being demolished, despite an outcry from preservationists.

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A Tijuana institution is being torn down. Wrecking crews have begun demolishing the city’s bullring. The “Toreo Tijuana” has been a landmark for nearly 70 years. Some in the city are fighting to preserve the historic stadium. Others say the dilapidated structure is an eyesore and should go. KPBS Border Reporter Amy Isackson has the story.

The bullring rises alongside one of Tijuana’s main thoroughfare like a diorama of decades gone past. Use your hands to block out the modern buildings on either side. You can almost picture how it was back in 1938 when10,000 fans filled the stands, including movie stars like Ava Garnder and Marylin Monroe.

For more than 50 years, Don Joaquin Descroche Penicilino recorded radio ads like this one for the bullring.

Don Descroche cut a handsome figure. Six-two and even taller with his sombrero. Every Sunday, he’d saddle up his horse. He’d lead the parade of matadors into the ring to begin the afternoon.

That was the last ad Don Descroche recorded.

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Three years after his death, his son Jorge Diez Jackson says he’s glad his dad didn’t live to see the destruction of the bullring that defined his life. On a recent afternoon, Diez Jackson came to the bullring to rescue a plaque, commemorating his dad’s half-century of service.

<b> Jackson: </b><br><br>Part of my house is the bullring.
Diez Jackson says his whole life he’s lived just three blocks away.
<b> Jackson: </b><br><br>When I was nine years old, I used to go with my dad to put the bulls in their pens for the corridas. And, I remember people from the United States, especially the women, they were very impressed when they’d see him dressed like a cowboy, with his gun, his moustache.
Diez Jackson is heartbroken that this piece of Tijuana will soon disappear. A handful of preservationists share his disappointment. They want the bullring to be labeled an historic site. However, despite the pleas, the city has allowed the wrecking ball to come in.City officials won’t disclose who owns the land, which is one of the most valuable plots in the city. And they won’t say what will take the bullring’s place.

About a quarter of the once proud landmark is already piled on the side of the street. Throughout the afternoon, a steady stream of Tijuana residents stops by the bullring to snap their last shots.

Valerino Salceda Giraldes is bemused by people’s nostalgia.

<b> Giraldes: </b><br><br>Everyone has the right to come take photos, take dirt from here, they can even cry.
But, he says…
<b> Giraldes: </b><br><br>This is the ugliest bullring I’ve ever seen in Mexico, and I’ve seen them all. If there’s someone who thinks I am exaggerating, I defy them to show me a photo of an uglier bullring.
Giraldes’s voice is almost as much of an institution as the bullring itself.

He’s announced the corridas in Tijuana for 36 years. He has his own radio show and covers bullfighting for local newspapers and TV. Giraldes says the bullring has lived a long life. And its popularity has waned in recent years. He says on a good day it pulls a crowd of maybe 3,000. Giraldes says he’s heard a new shopping center may go up. He thinks that may be better for the city anyway.

<b> Giraldes: </b><br><br>Imagine all the jobs it could create. Maybe 80 or 100 people work at the bullring on the days there are corridas, about six or eight days a year. With a shopping center, think how many more jobs you create. Besides, it’s not like Tijuana doesn’t have another bullring that’s way better than this one.
But Tijuana resident Javier Hernandez, who stops by to take a photo, disagrees.
<b> Hernandez: </b><br><br>This is a lot better than a shopping center. This is history. Period.
History that Diez Jackson, the son of the bullring’s radio ad man, grew up with.
<b> Jackson: </b><br><br>So for me the Toreo is something beautiful. For me, it’s a museum that we, as the people of Tijuana, should preserve.
Amy Isackson, KPBS News.