Eyes blazing, nostrils flared and hoofs stamping, well that’s sales season in Santa Cruz but away from the big modern department stores a piece of history and tradition is peeling but proud as it awaits its fate. The last bull fight took place at Plaza de Toros on 18 December 1983, since then the grand old building, just down from La Paz, has slowly crumbled as the sport was banned from the Canary Islands in 1991 and countless grand planning designs came and went.
In its heyday the bullring packed in 8,000 crowds on a Saturday night and was an important part of the local sporting calendar. Built in 1893, it survived a fire in 1924, re-opening three years later after repairs. Two years ago I got the chance to go inside and see how the structure was holding up. I expected to be greeted by a cascade of cockroaches before wading knee deep in rubbish but it was in pretty decent shape, even the chandeliers were hanging in the entrance way, and the tunnels where the bulls charged out were clear.
My guide was the owner of the El Buradero restaurant and bar, one of the last remaining, and soon to be evicted for progress, tenants. Kike looked misty eyed as he scanned the rotting seats and the precariously balanced central tower, it was easy to imagine the cauldron of noise and emotion this tight cosy amphitheatre could produce.
Even the address of the bullring evokes historical memories of warriors from different ages. Rambla de General Franco and Calle Horacio Nelson lock horns as they meet on the busy main road around the Tenerife capital. When the bulls were put out to grass Plaza de Toros became home to many varied events from Carnaval pageants to boxing and Canarian wrestling, even James Brown got down here in concert, feeling good, well he knew that he would.
The building is iconic and there is a strong lobby to protect it and preserve at least its outward shell. In 1986 Santa Cruz council had plans to turn it into a modern 10,000 all purpose stadium, but that never got off the ground. In July 2008 things seemed to be happening, 35 architects entered a competition for the redevelopment and the plans went on display in the nearby Parque Garcia Sanabria for Tenerife residents to vote for their favourite. The winning design Plaza de Todos by Antonio del Pozo Mozo, his son Cesar and Carlos Bernal Limiñana seemed to tick all the boxes, preserving the faÃ§ade but with modern shops and offices inside plus some green space. Now nearly two years on nothing has changed apart from a bit more paint peeling and a few more pigeons setting up home. Watch this space as they say.