Lucha Libre: A Mexican Pastime

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Thousands gathered in the city gymnasium of Ciudad Juarez on a cold and windy Sunday evening. Rain and dirt had swept through the city the whole weekend. Regardless of the inclement weather, people from both sides of the border came together in anticipation of the monthly Lucha Libre match (Mexican Wrestling Event). No one was more ecstatic of the forthcoming event than Angel, the boy in the picture above. He was wearing the mask of wrestling legend, Jorge Guzman, also known as El Hijo del Santo. Angel was kicking and punching imaginary villains. His young parents encouraged and cheered him on. At times they became his nemesis and childishly wrestled him. Like Angel, people from all age groups anticipated the matches to come. Regardless of their age, spectators eagerly awaited their local and national wrestling heroes to take the main stage on the wrestling ring.

Lucha Libre is one Mexico’s national pastimes. Since the 1930s, the sport has mesmerized the minds of the Mexican people. In the 1950s, with the arrival of television, Lucha Libre became a national phenomenon. Wrestlers tend to wear masks to hide their identity and are divided into two groups: tecnicos, the good guys, and rudos, the villains. Tecnicos follow the rules of the wrestling commission. The rudos play by their own rules. The crowd takes sides and either cheers or condemns the actions of the wrestlers. The fans, regardless of who they supported, awaited the start of the event.

Local wrestlers took the ring first. Their amateur status was evident from the start. Regardless of their tecnico or rudo affiliation, they  would often flop in their attempts to execute their wrestling moves. The crowds’ cheer turned to laughter, and at times insults. Regardless of the lack of execution, the wrestlers would play along with the crowds antics. They would attempt wrestling moves that were beyond their experience, like the patada boladora (the flying kick),  in an attempt to rally the crowd for the main event featuring a former world wrestling champion.

Rey Mysterio Jr., who is originally from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, was the featured star and crowd favorite. Short in stature, with a strong physical build, Mysterio was flawless in the ring. He would easily execute his moves. With every kick that he landed and smack-down that he produced, the crowd would grow louder and louder. Throughout his match nobody was sitting down. Children would chant his name, MYSTERIO! The opposition had no chance. Two against  Mysterio, the Tijuana native corralled his adversaries in-between two ring ropes while they appeared unconscious, and performed his signature knockout move, The 619. Both opponents fell to the ground. Mysterio pinned them down at the same time. The referee counted to three and the crowd erupted in cheer.

Mysterio surpassed crowd’s expectations. Fathers lifted their sons in victory. The elderly quietly clapped in admiration after what they had witnessed. In that moment, age and personal history did not matter. That evening the spectators were one body and part of a trans-generational national tradition: Lucha Libre.

The Border: Two Cities in a Globalized Era

I was Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan and raised in the bi-national community of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua; a metropolis with over a million residents. Large in size, the two cities have small-town vibe. For a young man like myself, I felt the community had nothing else to offer me. By the age of 17, I was ready to enter the world. I was a rising senior at my high school and looking forward to college. After a long and thought-out vetting process, I decided to enroll in St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. 

As an undergraduate, I thrived academically , socially and civically. I served the State of Texas during the 83rd Legislature; served the student body as a student government executive; volunteered for political campaigns; worked as a researcher at St. Mary’s University and Columbia University, the latter providing me with the opportunity to live in New York. Following my time in the Big Apple, I studied abroad in London , England. 

Many other experiences marked my life, but nothing comes close to the time I spent in Western Europe and the Northeastern United States. Assimilating into different cultures taught me the importance of being a global citizen. In a way, borders and geopolitical divisions began to erase from my psyche. I began to see humanity as a single race. The patrimony between the citizens and their respective countries gave them an identity. Despite the unique identities of the countries I visited, their cultures made me feel welcomed, and I became part of their communities. 

Young and adventurous, El Paso and Juarez were not on my radar. My community was a distant memory in an abyss of thrill and fun nights. However, upon returning to my hometown after finishing my undergraduate studies, I found out how rich in spirit and culture El Paso and Juarez are. As cities on the rise, I now see what a privilege it was to have grown up here. El Paso’s working class culture and residents make those who visit feel welcomed and at home. Juarez’ fast paced and vibrant lifestyle attract businesses and visitors from all over the United States and Mexico. The cities are separated by a river, but are joined by a fraternal bond between their citizens.