A Ringside Riot

Monday nights don’t normally offer much in the way of entertainment, but in the centre of Puebla you’ll find the world famous Lucha Libre in full swing. Mexican free wrestling is something of a cultural institution, and can be loosely compared to the English pantomime for its blend of family appeal, audience participation, vibrant costumes and fun heroes and villains narrative.

Lucha Libre is most notably characterised by the colourful masks that most (but not all) wrestlers wear, which create a stylised identity for the luchadores (fighters), add to their heroism and mystery, and allows them to achieve fame and reputation. The wearing of masks dates back to the early twentieth century and has become symbolically sacred: the unmasking of an opponent during a match is grounds for disqualification, but the elaborate threatening constitutes an important part of the drama. The mask of Lucha Libre is often used as an emblem of Mexican culture, honour and moral spirit, and frequently features in Mexican art and forms a part of public murals.

The wrestlers mostly fight in tag teams of three called trios, which make for fast-paced matches with as much action outside of the ring as in it. The teams come in two categories, making it very straightforward to follow. The rudos are the ‘baddies’, who fight in a more brawling style and tend to bend or break the rules, goad the referee and their opponents, and generally make themselves unlikeable. The técnicos are the ‘goodies,’ who fight with greater technical ability and display more complex and spectacular manoeuvres, including impressive high flying attacks.

As much as anything else, a night at the Lucha Libre offers an interactive lesson in Mexican slang, insults, swearwords and groserías – essential education for any trip to Mexico. Don’t miss the delicious esquites (sweetcorn with mayonnaise, cheese and chilli) for sale outside, and of course your very own mask which shouldn’t cost more than 150 pesos.

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