As you know, part of our work down here in Mexico right now, besides studying language and building relationships, is studying culture, and of course this is all for the sake of reaching people for Christ. What is culture? According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, culture is “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time.” Studying culture and building relationships are inextricably linked as studying culture means spending time out in it with people. We are actually encouraged to get out, get to know people and see whats happening in their lives and around the city. The daily grind isn’t always exciting, but everyone once in a while something really fun comes up!
A little over a month ago a deeply held desire of mine finally came to fruition. If you have ever seen the movie Nacho Libre you have an idea of how much fun a Mexican lucha libre wrestling match could be. Lucha libre means “free fight” and is professional wrestling, Mexico style, most commonly characterized by the wearing of brightly decorated masks and the use of elaborate combinations of moves during a match.
Ever since I first visited Mexico city around this time last year I wanted to go to a match. The opportunity arose to go to a match down there, but our group voted in favor of going to the famous ballet foklorico instead. Who would choose Mexican ballet over Mexican wrestling? Just saying. 🙂
In any case, I mentioned to a fellow American that I had wanted to go and about a month ago he emailed me a picture of a sign he saw around town advertising an upcoming match right here in Chihuahua! The only catch was that it also happened to be on the same night as Beth and my wedding anniversary.
Needless to say, Beth is super cool and she insisted that I not miss the opportunity. I kept asking her if she wanted to go with me, but she wasn’t interested. I don’t know why. I invited some other friends, but only my friend Abraham could make it.
So, about a month ago it was finally time. Abraham and I made our way downtown to where the match was being held. We arrived about fifteen minutes before the match was scheduled to start. The building did not look like much from the outside. You could not even tell how big it was from the street. There was a small crowd outside the building, and about half a dozen people in line in front of the ticket window. I also noticed a few police outside and an ambulance parked near the door. We got in line and purchased our tickets. It was $60 Mexican pesos per adult, which made it about $3.00 US for each of us. I noticed there was also a lower price for children. This made me wonder how many kids normally show up to this kind of thing.
We presented our tickets at the door and made our way into a dark hallway. On one side of the hallway was a long glass case full of miniature wrestling masks. I do not know if those masks were all decorative or if they were replicas of the various luchadores (wrestlers) who had fought there. On the other side was a glass case of photos from apparently famous matches in the past. At the end of the hallway we walked out into the coliseum which was much larger than it had appeared from the street. The wrestling ring was in the middle of course, and surrounding it on almost all sides were cement stadium style seating.
Abraham and I found some good seats and sat down to wait for the fights to begin. There was already a couple of hundred people seated and the coliseum could have take a few hundred more. As soon as we sat down we had some vendors come over and offer us soft drinks and beer. There was also a snack stand nearby in case we wanted some chips or candy.
There were probably about one hundred kids there to watch the fights.
Suddenly the lights went out and you could hear the voice of the announcer over the speakers announcing the first match. It is really hard to capture the atmosphere in writing as you can imagine. Each wrestler was announced and came out into the coliseum among loud cheers from the crowd. The first match was be two-vs-two. I cannot remember the names of the luchadores but they were a sight to see. They wore brightly colored masks and otherwise looked pretty tough.
The match began and it was very fascinating to watch. Most of the time it was clear that it was acted out, but there were a few times when you had to wonder if the other person had really been injured. There were kicks and punches, pile drivers and elbow drops, you name it. It was wild. I wondered how the entire production was put together because at times everything flowed together quite nicely. There were definitely crowd favorites!
More entertaining than the first, the second match was a whopping five-vs-five! At first there was only one person from each team fighting, but as you can imagine, before you knew it, there were five different fights happening around the ring… and off! At one point, one luchador picked up a part of the fence surrounding the ring and threw it at another luchador.
Near the end of this match, one of the luchadores had blood on his face. I was wondering if it was real, when the guy fighting him took him up into the ring (they had been fighting out of the ring) and did a pile driver on him. The man now appeared to be passed out. I heard one of the wrestlers call for someone off stage and two paramedics came in with a plastic backboard stretcher. They entered the ring and placed the man on the stretcher only to have an opposing team luchador roll him off, pick up the stretcher and start using it to fight with. Another wrester pushed one of the paramedics and it became obvious that it was all a part of the act. It was hilarious!
We left during the third fight, but suffice to say, it featured a short luchador dressed as an indian with a headdress.
In the end, it was a blast. The crowd enjoyed it, especially the kids. There were jokes made throughout the night during the fights that were funny and overall I think I would go again. Would I take Jude? Probably not at this point because the violence at times was I think a little intense for his age. Although, ever since I got back Iris has been telling me it is her dream to go. I learned from Abraham that although Nacho Libre highlighted this aspect of Mexican culture, it is really not very huge today, and many of my Mexican friends have never even gone to a match in their lives.