My wife and were walking along the mostly deserted streets of Oaxaca late one night when all of sudden the commotion started.
Now, if you are a couple of gabachos, that is not always a good sign. Seriously, it could have been anything. Like another APPO demonstration, even though I was pretty sure they were safely tucked in their tents for the night. Or a flash mob, ready to perform, even though I’ve never seen that in Mexico.
Or, it could have been a group of people getting ready for a night of “Lucha Libre!”
For the uninitiated, Lucha Libre, or Professional Wrestling, is very different from what you may see in the US. In Mexico, pro wrestling is much more rustic, rudimentary or local. But it’s also much more fun. And all the wrestlers wear masks. And have cool names like Mystico, Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara. Sure, there are the high level pros, but even at that level, it is nothing like it is in the US with RAW!
For example, when was the last time you saw a wrestling ring set up in the middle of an intersection in your town?
That’s what my wife and I experienced that night.
It was incredible. Fun. Exciting. And just nuts. Bodies flying everywhere as they “wrestled.”
Soon after that night Jack Black starred in Nacho Libre, the story of a priest who wrestles to get money for the kids he serves. It’s like that was a spark to a market that had been mostly niche. Now wrestling is mainstream. Cool, hip, counter culture and yet, totally culturally accepted.
There are masks everywhere. Lucha Libre video games abound. My friend Roberto Munguia even custom designs Lucha Libre T-shirts. If you’ve seen pictures or videos of me, you’ve seen some of those shirts. I wear them everywhere. And no, not because he gives them to me, because I love them.
Wrestling, or more exactly, Lucha Libre is part of the heart of Mexico. All of Mexico. From Oaxaca to Ensenada, and all parts in between, you can go and see this wonderful part of the Mexican culture.
And you should, because understanding Lucha Libre is as important to knowing My Mexico as a visit to Monte Alban, El Palacio de Bellas Artes or Chapultepec Park in Mexico City.