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Rosa Ortiza, No Bull

Rosa had actually mapped out her future. She was going to be the first female bull rider.

By Tommy Villalobos
Published on LatinoLA: August 26, 2014


Rosa Ortiza, No Bull


"Never said I would," Rosa Ortiza scolded her mirror.

What Rosa was telling her mirror was that she would stick with one Freddie Loosto only as far as she could dispatch him with one good patada. She never said she would go with him. He was just someone who came out of a fog and left in a thicker one.

But you know, Rosa was only seventeen and things could change. That notion ("things could change") was resting on her mind like a fat, lazy cat ever since her mother said that one day when speaking about her father who spent a good part of his day daydreaming, never rising above minimum wage or the moment.

Freddie Loosto was slippery and wiggly. She was a young woman with sticky but restless fingers. Incompatibility highlighted with fanfare by fifty bugles and a piccolo.

Rosa was determined not to end up like that woman she heard about through that culturally unique grapevine--chisme. The referenced woman one sad day found out that her husband of ten years had been seeing an old girlfriend during those same ten years. The woman was amazed then confused then rattled then bummed out. She had been ignorant of the girlfriend for those ten years. She had trusted her husband. He had deceived her. She recalled that her husband during those ten years brought her flowers on Fridays, once a month. She then wondered how much more he brought to that girlfriend's table.

The woman felt the betrayal of betrayals all the way to her spine. She gingerly walked up to the deck located outside of their second story bedroom and tossed herself onto her driveway only to land on her husband who was returning from seeing that same girlfriend (he later confessed).

The capsized wife survived with only a bruised elbow but she put the dude out of commission as an inamorato and he had to remain a faithful spouse from then on.

The marriage was saved, somewhat, but Rosa did not want the drama. No, she would find something else upon which to spend her energy.

And she did.

Rosa had an older girlfriend, Maria Bontuz Jones, who owned a barbershop, and whom she would visit during Maria's slow hours, which occurred regularly. There, Rosa discovered her perceived purpose in life. At Maria's Sport Barber Shop, she happened to flip through one of Maria's men's magazines. This one was titled No Bull. It was a magazine filled with pages of professional and amateur bull riders, those hearty, brave and/or crazy souls who get on a bull on purpose. Among the articles was one about an African-American bull rider who used bull riding to hurl himself from the ghetto and into the rodeo pits. There was another about several bull riders from Brazil who ranked in the top ten of U.S. bull riders without a word of recognizable English among them.

Rosa was fascinated. Maria's voice gradually became a background drone much like the oldie rollas floating from Maria's radio.

"Did you find a man in there?" asked Maria.

Rosa continued reading.

"Did you find two?" probed Maria.

"Huh?" said Rosa, looking up with glazed eyes.

"You look strange. Like what you'd look like if Luis Miguel stepped on one of your big toes. You know, happy, but thinking at the same time how much it hurts."

"Huh?" said Rosa, still chucking bulls and bull riders in her head.

"??Qu?® te pas??? Girl, what's wrong with you? I never saw you like this. Well, maybe just the time you were talking to Ernest, the barrio lover, who asked you out and you said "yes," but then he got busted for all kinds of stuff and is caged at Folsom."

"Oh. No, I was just thinking about something then something else."

"I know. But what about what?"

"Just my future."

"Looks like you were just thinking about a lot of people's futures."

"Well, the things we do always affect at least one person and maybe a pet."

"Are you going away?"

"Sort of."

Rosa had actually mapped out her future. She was going to be the first female bull rider (she later discovered that some chica had hopped onto a bull before her). She had an abuelita from way back who lived in Juarez and drove a buggy with one, sometimes two horses. Maybe that's where her desire came from. Genes and splicing and all that, she thought.

Rosa left Maria scratching her head and headed for the wide open spaces--East L.A.'s Belvedere Park for now. She sat on the grass and pictured herself riding a bull peacefully across the soccer field. Then she added a grandstand near the goal post, followed by gente cheering, most of them Raza. She even placed her abuelita from Juarez in the grand stand, waving a sombrero, stomping and whistling.

She would have to break the news to her parents and little sisters, Rina and Natasha. Rina was nine and Natasha was twelve trying to be twenty or so. Her dress and demeanor left childhood in the ashes. She surreptitiously gave away any clothes that made her look twelve after an hour and a whole box of matches trying to burn one rainbow dress a t?¡a gave her for her twelfth birthday. The rainbow never ignited.

"Ma," said Rosa, "I decided what I want out of life."

"First, let me tell you what I want out of life. Put the salt on those beans and stir."

Rosa complied.

"I want to ride bulls."

"Bulls?"

"Professionally."

"Is there money in that?"

"Don't know. Or care."

"Then get a good job and/or a husband first."

"A husband is out. I want to ride a bull, not hear it."

"There are good men out there. There has to be. Do the math."

"Odds don't favor it. I'm not a gambler, ma. But I will be a bull rider."

Her father took the news as he took everything else in life: a bewildered amusement followed by an empty laugh. Then he turned on the TV.

"How come father didn't say anything?" she asked her mother.

"Your father has little to say in or about life. You know that."

"But this is a life changing event."

"Not for him."

At dinner, Rosa broke the news to her two sisters, who responded with blank stares as if Rosa had asked them the difference between osmosis and diffusion in, through and under green plant life, under normal conditions.

Then Rina, with firm spine, spoke.

"Who will help us do the dishes, sweep, take the garbage out and help grandma clean her casa?"

"I have to go," Rosa said, although squirming in her seat as if Rina had dropped a cube of ice down her spine. "I've graduated from high school and I have to help the family. I'll send moneywhen I can."

Her mother and father continued eating as if Rosa had been mumbling to herself. Her father had to see things first before commenting. Her mother didn't expect anything to change but to her credit, showed surprise when things did change on rare occasion.

After extensive research, Rosa explained the intricacies of bull riding to her mother who took those intricacies and flung them at her husband with an "?íAy, no!" at the end. In response, he displayed the usual bewildered amusement followed by an empty laugh. Then he turned off the TV.

"I now know what you mean, Rosa," said her mother in frustration and commiseration. "He really doesn't react normally to life, does he?"

"What did you see in him, anyway?" said Rosa, as if speaking to a jilted girlfriend.

"He's your father."

"Right. You can't un-ring a bell, water under the bridge and you done made your bed. This is just hypothetical. Wasn't there anyone better around? You know, a bato with some personality?"

"It was his ojos?"

"Those lifeless grey circles?"

"Almost a bright metallic when he was young. They were like those canicas my brothers prized, the Steelies."

"Through the eyes of an aging but upbeat babe. But it could not just have been his eyes. I mean, what did he say to you that made your heart do the Nae Nae?"

"With a Power Move. It wasn't so much what he said or even did. It came from here." Her mother pointed to her heart as if pointing to an organ no one else possessed.

Rosa stared at her chest as if it was.

"It has to come from there," her mother said while continuing to point at her chest proudly. "No matter what a man says, or does, or how much money he has, a woman knows whether it's real or not. A man doesn't care. He's all business. The conquest occupies his mind, nothing else. An obsession. Like someone at a slot machine."

Rosa pondered. She then went to her room and pondered some more.

She replayed her mother's words. She then applied those words to her own manner of deduction: men now were of no importance to her. Bull riding was.

In her heart, she knew there was nothing in the world she would rather do than stay for eight seconds on a bull. Some say the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.

To be continued, no bull

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