Our last article on Mexico City described the tours we took and the perspective we got on the local culture. I have found that participating in local activities is an essential way to truly connect with the culture of a city. So, we managed to go to a couple of events specific to Mexico during our roving retirement stop in Mexico City.
The Ballet Folklorico de Mexico performed nearby many times while we lived in the Bay Area, but we never went to see it. So, we eagerly purchased tickets when we learned they were performing within walking distance of our hotel. The home of the Ballet Folklorico is the beautiful Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. We were thrilled to see the performance and the inside of this magnificent building.
The high-energy program of music and dance spanned the history Mexico, from pre-European through the colonial and revolutionary periods into the mid-20th century. Over the course of the nearly two non-stop hours, we were treated to fabulous songs and intricate, loving dance moves. The joy and pride of the nation came shining through during every routine. If you get a chance to experience this production, go, you won’t regret it.
A very different dance is performed 4 times a week during the Lucha Libre fights in Mexico City. Greco-Roman wrestling was popular in Mexico a century ago. But things took a very different turn when the Lucha Libre “freestyle wrestling” format was born in 1933.
The new fighting format, with only a few rules, grew in appeal over time. The popularity of Lucha Libre really took off in the 1960s when one of the great luchadores (fighters), El Santo, decided to wear his mask whenever he was in public. He wore his mask driving around town in his convertible or going to buy groceries. Santo also made more than 50 B-movies over his career. His character was always battling corruption, spies, criminals and aliens, all while winning many fights in the ring. He was revered by his legion of fans. Santo’s identity was only revealed shortly before his death. His legacy is a sport that enjoys popularity now more than ever.
Our Lucha Libre Experience
Today, Lucha Libre resembles WWE, except for the masks worn by luchadores. The identities of masked luchadores are still protected unless a luchador loses his mask in a “bet” fight, where he stakes his mask on the outcome. Once unmasked, a luchador can continue to fight, but can never wear a mask again. This is one of the few rules. I was told the fights are not fixed, but I found it hard to believe for the fights I saw. I would imagine “bet fights” are taken more seriously given the cost of losing.
Again, like WWE, luchadores practice a lot so the impressive moves they make don’t actually injure the other wrestlers much. The result is an engaging performance with luchadores frequently flying into and out of the ring while fighting. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Friday Night Fights and would likely do it again when we are in town. Pick a side, hero or villain, and get ready for a lot of just plain old fun.
Are you a lover or a fighter?