As some of you already know, I recently moved into a house in Mexico City! It is centrally located near Guerrero Gym, Sepulcro’s tienda, & Miguel’s taller. It is also, unfortunately, situated a mere 50 feet from a panaderia…
The day before I moved in, I was given the house-owner’s keys for the purpose of making myself a copy. Watching the locksmith create the key was an interesting process, as unlike large stores such as Fred Meyer’s in the US, the key was largely made by hand with a file. I remember thinking, “Wow, the craftmanship is impressive.” During the walk back, I noticed that this was a larger theme in Mexico: torillas are made fresh by tortillarias in the streets; there are no ‘farmer’s markets,’ because the food available at the mercado is being sold by the farmers themselves; everything from pipes, to textiles, to clothing bear “Hecho en Mexico”. It is remarkably different from the United States, where we are so divorced from the means of production of goods. “Wow,” was all that I could think in response to this cultural dissonance: just “wow.”
Unfortunately, the first key did not work. The next day, I returned to the same locksmith, and he provided me a new key. This key also did not work. The third time, he closely compared the original key and the second copy, and made minor adjustments with a file, after which he assured me that the key would work.
Well, it sort of worked.
The key went into the lock, and clicked to the right. Twice. Two ‘clicks’, that is. After that, the key would not turn, at all. In either direction. After nearly an hour of jiggling, wiggling, tugging, pushing, and pulling the key, Juan–the son of the house owner–and I, decided to try to turn it with pliers. The result?
…except the broken portion was left inside of the lock. Consequently I spent the night on an inflatable mattress on Sepulcro’s living room floor, as the locksmith could not drill the lock until the following day.
The takeaway? If you are visiting Mexico City, go to Fred Meyer’s if you need to copy a key.
In other news:
It is the end of my second week here in Mexico city, and I have finally made it to a show in the legendary Arena Mexico! The show featured a plethora of luchadores, including a few favorites of mine: Dragon Rojo, Ultimo Guerrero, Rush, and the recently unmasked Rey Cometa. Blue Panther also made an appearance, who is sort of a big deal.
I was flanked by two of my good friends, Sepulcro and his son Erick–the latter of whom is often my translator. Sepulcro, in case you are not familiar, happens to be a well known luchador in Mexico. Because of this, he was able to leverage us some front row seats.
The night was filled with excellent lucha action–and a few Coronas, to be sure. The headlining match was a tag match, which featured rivals Rush and Terrible on opposite sides. The previous week, Rush defeated Terrible in a cabellera contra cabellera match, a tension off which they played throughout their entire fight on Friday. While both excellent luchadores, they spent more time building up their rivalry than they did doing anything remarkable.
I was surprised by how empty the arena was–it may have been at 50% capacity. But I suppose when lucha libre is so ingrained in the culture, a trip to Arena Mexico is probably significantly less novel for the locals than it is for me. It is probably not unlike going to a Mariners game in Seattle, only lucha libre is infinitely cooler than baseball.
Tuesday, September 18th marked the day of my debut in Mexico, and the day that I realized that Mexico is indeed chock-full of luchadores. There is even perhaps an overabundance of them, which only funny to me because my home company, Lucha Libre Volcánica, has struggled to recruit new luchadores.
I was invited to perform by one of my maestros, Sepulcro, to what turned out to be an anniversary show of some effect, and was held in the back parking lot of a public marketplace in front of 60-80 people. There was no pay, but we were instead thanked with delicious in-house made chicharrón, and cervezas.
The event coordinator had invited a select few luchadores—the bigger names of course—and each of them decided in turn to bring all of their luchador friends. For fans, this meant that they would get to see a lot of luchadores. For the luchadores, it meant that there were all messily crammed into a tent that was meant to comfortably fit 15 people at best. This also marked my first time being a part of a 4-man tag team match, which took place in a ring that had been haphazardly and hastily thrown together. Imagine: extra-thick yoga mats layered above plywood and steel beams, all topped with a tarp that appeared to have borrowed from a utility tent. Oh, and that tarp is “secured” by twine.
I have yet to find a spanish equivalent for the phrase “shitshow.”
The structural integrity of the ring was so questionably terrifying, that I had trouble focusing on the match itself instead of thinking about my safety the entire time. I also managed royally fuck up a move called tijeras from the third rope. Tijeras should look something like this:
Instead, I ended up doing something resembling this:
Consequently I have a bruised shoulder, which isn’t too bad considering what could have happened. I would easily call it my worst match ever, and if nothing else, it was definitely a learning experience. [UPDATE: Video of this trainwreck can be found here]
In other news, one of my maestros wants me dead. To be clear, not just me: all of his students. Meet: Pierrothito.
Pierrothito, or Pequeño Pierroth, is a CMLL alumn, and has performed internationally. He is strong, agile, and roundly respected worldwide as a luchador. He is also a demanding maestro, and runs his practices much like a drill sargeant.
On an unrelated note, Sr. Pierroth also stands at a staggering 5 feet tall and one half-inch, so it feels more like this at times…
Salto de tigre from the floor into the ring over the first rope, followed by a resorte from the ring apron to the floor: 5 times
Salto de tigre from the floor into the ring over the second rope, followed by a maroma, then a resorte to the outside: 5 times
Note: to put the latter two in perspective, the ring sits 4 feet off of the ground. And we do all of this before we ever get in the ring to practice lucha libre, in which we do drills for another hour. At least.
…and maybe a couple of other “warmup” exercises. In short: Pierrothito does not fuck around.
Despite being physically destroyed on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, my evening practices with Sepulcro are significantly more relaxed by comparison, and instead are quite technical in nature. Regardless, I am simultaneously getting my ass kicked and learning loads from my two maestros, both of whom are excellent teachers, even if one of them is trying to kill me…
As many of you may know, I have been abroad in Mexico City for almost two weeks. Unlike the standard “trip to Mexico,” I am living in Mexico City with friends, and therefore I am not isolated from the general populace. I am, instead, right in the middle of Mexico’s capital city, along with: working-class people, professionals, homeless, drunks, artists, hipsters…you know, all of the things that we also have in America.
One thing that has made my adventure interesting—amongst other things—is that I my Spanish is less-than-awesome. Consequently I have had the (un?)fortunate experience of being the foreigner—and an obvious one at times. This means that I am generally escorted everywhere, and people regularly have to translate for me in public—an action that is followed by the obligatory (“El es de los estados unidos…”). An adventure in and of itself, my experiences with learning Spanish through immersion has been simultaneously amusing, frustrating, and enlightening. As the outsider, I have learned some ways in which you, as a non-foreigner, can avoid being an asshat the next time you encounter someone who does not speak English very well, and instead, be helpful.
Do not ruthlessly make fun of someone’s inability to speak the local language: This is particularly important during the first few times you meet. If someone is insecure about their inability to speak the langauge, you will only hinder their progress by repeatedly mocking their attempts to stumble through, which is an important part of the learning process.
Do make corrections when applicable: especially if the mistake they are making has the potential to be embarrassing in the future. This happened when I first arrived in Mexico from a non-native English speaker: she kept incorrectly referring to the third-person possessive pronoun in the second-person. This means that she kept referring to “her” husband/cousin/brother, as “my” husband/cousin/brother…
Similarly, do not make fun of them for not understanding something you say: turn it into a learning process for both of you: reformulate the sentence to make it less complex, or slow down your speech. Repeating a statement at the same speed will not help them learn, and may ultimately frustrate both of you.
As they become more comfortable with speaking, it may be helpful to make light of any repetitive patterns in their speech. For example, maybe they consistently default to a certain response, which they are using as a crutch. Some light jokes may help push them to increase their language capacity, and by joking you may help descrease frustration they have from struggling with their non-native language.
Gesturing and miming can be helpful at times: This especially important when you absolutely must communicate something, and can also aide their word retention through action-based word association.
…However, it will behoove both of you to keep tabs on the other person’s progress: If they have eaten several meals with you, you probably don’t have to mime shoving food into your mouth every time you want to ask them if they are hungry. Such repetition may insult them. It will however, be helpful when trying to introduce slang phrases for actions that they already understand.
Always remember that they merely do not know the native language, which does not mean that they are stupid: I am sure that most cultures have concepts of “food,” and “walking,” amongst other things. Don’t insult their intelligence by asking them if they are familiar with basic actions: just help them learn your words for such actions.
The latter two assume some sort of an ongoing relationship with the other person, but still have some application to short, everyday encounters. These are—as the title implies—merely suggestions, and is not an exhaustive list. You may have to use your brain to find other ways to avoid coming off as a douchy American.
It is the end of my first week here in Distrito Federal, Mexico. Despite feeling overwhelmed for the first 3 days, I have begun to settle in. My friend and the designer of my gear–Miguel–has managed to already schedule a fight for me on September 15th, which may be followed by a fight against Sepulcro the following Tuesday. I am a tad bit nervous, but confident.
I have been training at the Guerrero Gym, which is the home to luchadors such as Rush and Astral. I have had the pleasure and honor of training with Sepulcro, Hurrican Ramirez, and Pierroth–all three in one day, in fact. Although the original plan was to try to get me into CMLL’s training school, this seems a bit of a stretch after some of the talent that I have seen.
Now, for some (very) surface observations.
The differences between the US and Mexico and vast and are far too great in number to enumerate here, but I will explicate a few notable differences, some of which may be specific to my region/barrio:
Lucha libre is, in fact, widly popular–at least in Distrito Federal: Although barely bigger than a breadbox in the US, lucha libre events are chronicled in several dedicated magazines, and is even reviewed by sports analysts. Luchador masks are a huge cultural signifier, and are depicted in everything from graffiti to advertisements.
This also means that there are a ridiculous amount of luchadors: In the US, especially my home near the Puget Sound, lucha libre is truly a novelty. For luchadors, this means that there is a large subculture of luchadors. It also means that lucha libre is exceptionally competetive.
In Mexico, at least in this area of DF, we spend a lot of time just hanging the fuck out: Really though, college life has nothing on what I have experienced here, whether in the street, in Miguel’s taller, or in someone’s house, we spend a lot of time just…bullshitting.
Strict regimented schedules, often referred to as “western time,”seems to have little merit here: By most standards in the US, I am considered to be quite relaxed about punctuality–perhaps to the frustration to some of my friends I am sure–but am quite punctual by any standards that I have witnessed.
We don’t go to bed early. Ever: party or not, going to bed after well after midnight is a pretty standard affair, whether or not one has to work in the morning. This is nothing new to college students or people that work swing-shifts, but for an entire un-isolated portion of the population…
People actually connect: Not only to neighbors know each other, people–strangers–actually say “hello” in the streets (Okay, “Buenos dias/tardes/noches”).
The streets are pure, unadulterated chaos: imagine that laws of the road were merely…suggestions. Stoplights included. Motorcyclists split lanes, cars don’t stop at intersections, and the lanes appear to bear no meaning. This type of anarchy is every road that I have encountered thus far in Mexico. California drivers have nothing on drivers in DF…
I would not use the phrase “culture shock”, but it has been an adventure thus far. Next week: Guerrero Gym: photos and a comparison of Lucha Libre Mexicana and lucha libre in the US.