Long Live the Lucha Libre, Mexico’s Wild World of Wrestling
Wrestling is constantly on the television, in magazines and newspapers, and the street stalls and markets sell mascaras (masks), capes, miniature Lucha Libre action figures, trinkets, and t-shirts. The t-shirts in themselves are fantastic pieces of graphic design. Images of the luchadores were everywhere we looked. The Mexican wrestler had become iconic.
We were eager to find out for ourselves what the fuss was all about. We asked our Mexican friends if we should go, and they unanimously and instantly said ‘Si!’
While anyone can buy tickets for the Friday and Sunday night matches at the Arena Mexico (pictured above) and the Tuesday night Arena Coliseo fights, our friend Fernando helped us get media access, relishing the opportunity to hang out in the press room as much as we did – if not more!
The atmosphere was electric and the appeal was immediately obvious. Wrestlers are superheros. The good guys (the técnicos) are like Batman with their mask and cape, and the bad guys (the rudos) are versions of The Riddler, out to expose the heroe’s weakness and unmask him. The wrestling match is a battle between heroes and villains, between good and evil, a melodramatic spectacle played out beneath a spotlight in a massive stadium that the audience gets to actively participate in.
The athleticism and aerial antics of the Mexican wrestlers make it much more easy to like than the American-style wrestling, and the ambiguity of the ‘man behind the mask’ adds an air of mystery to the proceedings.
Backstage, we met Olímpico, ‘the Olympian’ (the guy in the blue, gold and black mask above), the son of the famous Mexican wrestler Roy Aguirre. Olímpico trained under such greats as El Hijo del Gladiator (‘the son of the gladiator’) and has been fighting for almost 20 years. We asked him why he thought Mexican wrestling was special, what it was about it that set it apart from American-style wrestling.
“We have a long history of wrestling in Mexico. It’s 77 years old!” he told us passionately, as he flexed his muscles. “It’s a beautiful sport in Mexico and we’re the world’s best wrestlers, the elite. Nobody can destroy a Mexican wrestler or the Mexican style of wrestling. It’s popular because it’s spectacular!”
Héctor Garza, the wrestler with the glistening brown skin and yellow pants and boots above, is one of Mexico’s most revered wrestlers, holding a swathe of titles. We asked him why visitors to Mexico should come to the wrestling.
“I come from a family of wrestlers,” Héctor told us. “My father was a wrestler (the great Humberto Garza) and my uncle and brothers are wrestlers. I love, I love wrestling! Wrestling is an important part of Mexican culture. Mexicans are really fond of wrestling. People must see it when they come to Mexico!”
So, as a visitor to Mexico City, should you spend a night at the Lucha Libre? Si! Héctor is right and I’m not just saying this because he’s a lot bigger than I am. It is a vital part of the culture of Mexico.
We saw everyone at the wrestling, from little kids proudly wearing the masks of their favourite wrestlers to an eighty-something old man in a suit jacket and tie waiting patiently outside the press area to catch a glimpse of one of the luchadores. Some of the biggest ‘kids’ were middle aged men wearing the masks and capes of their preferred wrestlers. A fight between good versus evil has never been so much fun!
* Try to see a show at Arena Mexico on Dr Levista 189, between metros Cuauhtemoc and Balderas, on Friday or Sunday night; it’s the biggest stadium and is more exciting * If that doesn’t suit your schedule, see a match at the smaller and older Arena Coliseo on República de Perú and República de Chile, between metros Allende and Lagunilla
* buy tickets in advance as seats to see the star wrestlers sell out fast
* the easiest way to purchase tickets is online through Ticketmaster
* buy the best and most expensive ringside seats if your budget allows – prices range from a few US dollars ($25 pesos plus $14 pesos booking fee) for the highest and cheapest seats to around US$30 ($359 pesos, including booking fee) for the closest and best ringside seats
* be aware that in the ringside seats you will become part of the action!
* shows start at 8.30pm sharp but get there around 7.30pm to take in the atmosphere outside and grab some t-shirts
* do buy t-shirts, as you’ll see designs at the stalls outside the arenas that you won’t see at the markets
* take plenty of change for beer and snacks inside