Mis amigos de Mexico (especialmente la familia de Piña y la familia de Ruiz),
Es dificil para mi a explicar mi gratitud en español, pero yo quiero que ustedes saben que ustedes son como mi familia, y sin ustedes mi tiempo en Mexico no era posible. Ustedes son muy simpático y agredable, y me he sentido bienvenido en Mexico. Espero que nos vemos muy pronto…
PS: Cuando yo regreso a Mexico, poderé hablar más español…espero…
This week will mark the end of my first month in Mexico City. The myriad experiences thus far are many: from the excitement of training in the birthplace of Lucha Libre Mexicana, the fear of a new country, the frustration of lacking communication, the anguish of a terrible performance, to delivering a great performance on the same card as Hurican Ramirez. In lieu of attempting to–and undoubtedly failing to–capture my experience in prose, I have elected to share some photos.
More to come. Other photos can be found on my Instagram @ luchadorfenix.
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.
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.