A Matador's Family Treasure

bullfighter corrida jesus tenes luis tenes matador rudy tenes tijuana

Rodolfo "Rudy" Tenes' eldest sister Josefina Lopez had passed away some time ago and her son Carlos Lopez had just begun clearing out the garage. He came across a plastic bag with something bulky and heavy in a dark corner and thought it was a bag of old rags. As he opened the bag to take a look inside before tossing it, he discovered a beautiful rose-colored silk garment with

sequins. As he pulled it out of the bag he realized it was a bullfighter's cape and  knew exactly who it belonged to, his grandfather Jesus Tenes. 

To be precise, it was a Capote de Paseo, a ceremonial cape that a matador drapes over his shoulder when he enters the bullring to the sounds of the Pasodoble. 

Carlos' grandfather, Jesus Tenes was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, on March 8, 1884. He made his debut as a novillero (novice bullfighter) on  September 22, 1907 at  the Toreo de la Condesa bullring inauguration on the Hacienda de la Condesa, now the Roma district in Mexico City.  

Then on February 27, 1910 he made his alternativa, a ceremony where you become a full-fledged Matador alongside the great Matador Rodolfo Gaona at Toreo de la Condesa. His  godfather being the Almeria Julio Gómez "Relampaguito" and the witness Rodolfo Rodarte, with the bull named "Clavellino" from the cattle ranch of Arribas Hermanos. 

He had distinguished career performing in Mexico and Texas before retiring to live in Tijuana, Baja California still a territory of Mexico at the time. Before Vegas, Tijuana was a popular weekend spot to visit during prohibition where U.S. citizen's could cross the border to imbibe in forbidden spirits.  

In Tijuana he became the Inspector de Espectaculos  overseeing the new b ullring El Toreo De Tijuana  Inaugurated on July 3, 1938. Tenes married Maria Encarnación Arazia and settled down with his family living onsite on the right-side  of the bullring in a four bedroom house. 

Influenced by their surroundings his sons, Rudy and Jose Luis followed in their father's footsteps to become bullfighters in the 1950s. While Rudy was vacationing in San Francisco he met Lilia Sanchez, fell in love and retired from bullfighting. His father, Jesus died two years later on June 4, 1957. 

His widowed mother now had a house filled with bullfighting attire and gear so when Hollywood came knocking, needing authentic costumes for Steinbeck movies amongst others, she sold them the whole lot for $20,000.  The one item that his eldest sister, Josefina hung on to was her father's cape that he used when he became a Matador in 1910. 

Carlos remembers his mother and uncle bantering, as siblings do, about who should keep the cape, his eldest daughter or his son who was a bullfighter. Josefina would always ended the banter with, " Don't worry, you'll get it when I die."

Now more than 100 years after his debut, Carlos kept his mother's promise and presented the cape to his Uncle Rudy Tenes in 2019 at a family gathering in San Jose, CA. 

Pictured (L-R) Rudolfo Tenes, Jesus Tenes and Luis Tenes

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