Nacho: Ok. Orphans! Listen to Ignacio. I know it is fun to wrestle. A nice piledrive to the face… or a punch to the face… but you cannot do it. Because, it is in the Bible not to wrestle your neighbor.
Chancho: So you’ve never wrestled?
Nacho: Me? No. Come on. Don’t be crazy. I know the wrestlers get all the fancy ladies, and the clothes, and the free creams and lotions. But my life is good! Really good!
– Jack Black, Nacho Libre
In preparation for our trip to Mexico, our cultural research involved watching Nacho Libre, which is a movie starring Jack Black as a monk who really wants to be a luchador, or a Mexican wrestler. It was hilarious and got us psyched to go see actual lucha libre in Mexico.
What exactly is lucha libre? It literally means “free fight” and is a type of Mexican wrestling that’s part athleticism and part (large part..) theater. It involves colorful costumes and masks and high flying maneuvers and acrobatics, as well as a lot of yelling from the crowd. It’s the second most popular sport in the country, behind futbol of course. Our trip to Arena México to watch lucha libre quickly became a highlight of our trip to the city.
We went with a group of couch surfers who we met through couchsurfing.com. While the site has its roots in pairing travelers with hosts who are willing to let a foreigner sleep on their couch (hence the name), it has blossomed into a lively community of locals and travelers who hang out together and attend local events. No sleeping on a couch required!
Mexico City has a very active Couchsurfing community and we attended several Couchsurfing events and got to meet a lot of people – probably 90% of them from Mexico. It’s more fun with a crowd than just the two of us.
Lucha libre happens about three times a week at Arena México, and it seems that about once per week the couch surfers attend a match. So we met up with them on a rainy Friday night at an enchilada restaurant across the street from the arena. After everyone had their fill, we hopped in line and bought tickets for the night’s event. For 110 pesos, or about $6 USD, we got mid-level seats and settled in to watch the show.
There are four matches in a night. Each match lasts for three bells (probably 5-10 minutes per bell) with plenty of trash-talking, strutting, and posing in between fights. All of the matches we saw had about six people in the ring at once. Well, they didn’t stay in the ring for very long because they quickly got airborne by jumping off the ropes and turnbuckles, doing somersaults and flips in the air while flinging their opponents across the ring and sometimes into the crowd! There was a favorite move that David quickly named “the flying dolphin” (looked similar to the above move).
Unfortunately cameras are not allowed at the event but we were able to snag a few videos with our phones:
We definitely recommend attending lucha libre if you ever find yourself in Mexico City. Settle in, make some friends, cheer on the good guys, and learn some swear words to hurl at the bad guys (we selected who we cheered for based on their outfits/their names). For less than $10 you can get a pretty good seat and a michelada (beer mixed with clamato and lime, served with chili powder and tamarind on the edge of the cup) while watching costumed men and women hurl each other through the air. We’re already planning to spring for the “good” seats on our next trip through Ciudad de México. ¡Viva lucha libre!