Lucha Libre Alive and Well in Juarez

On a recent sweltering Sunday afternoon in Ciudad Juarez, loud surf rock music emanating from a sound system set a suspenseful mood for the showdown to follow. While a gathering crowd waited anxiously for the big moment, children bounced around the roped ring mounted at the foot of the Benito Juarez Monument.

Finally, the kids cleared the way for two wrestlers mounting the stage: the unmasked Rabia and the masked Mini-Pagano, or Mini-Pagan.  Throwing each other on the canvas and landing body “hits,” the father and son duo elicited shouts, insults and cheers from the audience. Another match of Mexican-style wrestling, Lucha Libre, had the masses enthralled.

Snapping away photos and watching intensely from below the ring, Eduardo Macazani, founder and director of the local wrestling magazine La Lucha Juarez, spoke to FNS about the meaning and status of Lucha Libre in Juarez, Mexico and the world.

“Wrestling is part of the culture of Juarez,” Macazani said. “(Juarez) is the birthplace of great wrestlers.”

Juaritos has even spawned such greats as the pioneering woman wrestler Lola “Dinamita” (Dynamite) Gonzalez, he added.

According to the Lucha Libre enthusiast, the Mexican border city currently counts 10 different rings located in colonias populares, or working-class neighborhoods, with matches typically drawing upwards of 400 spectators who pay 20 to 50 pesos each for the privilege of watching gaudy men and women with terror-evoking names, flamboyant costumes and fiercely tattooed bodies engaging in an acrobatic performance of theatrical combat between heroes and villains.

For Macazani, basic themes underlay a “sport spectacle” that is passed on from generation to generation.

“Lucha Libre is about good vs. evil, or in this case, evil vs. evil,” Macazani said.

The names of local wrestlers and teams reflect the life-and-death veil of the stage: Panther Assassin, the Demons of the Apocalypse, Chicanos Locos, Red Star, The King of Flames, to name a few.  Macazani estimates 300-400 professional wrestlers are active in the borderland.

The Benito Juarez Monument Lucha Libre event was a free event, hosted by the weekly Bazar Cultural del Monu, a regular Sunday afternoon event usually known for its antique flea market, old rock and jazz record stands, classic literature, handicrafts, live music and other expressions of creative genius.

Approached by a German woman wrestler who proposed an afternoon of Lucha Libre, the Monu decided to host some matches for the first time, said Monu Coordinator Pablo Montalvo. “It had to be the Monu,” he chuckled.

After Mini-Pagano subdued Rabia, other wrestlers jumped into the ring, including several women. Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon was the woman vs. woman struggle between the tall German wrestler who goes by the name La Diosa del Ring, or “The Goddess of the Ring,” and the shorter and huskier competitor known as Zafiro.

To boos and applause, the women greeted the crowd in all their splendor. Zafiro pranced about the ring in a glittering purple and orange costume with her face covered by a black mask, while La Diosa del Ring did flips and leaps while dressed in a gold, white and blue outfit, her long flowing blonde hair tumbling behind a monstrous gold mask.
The referee, a no-nonsense but super salty-mouthed man called Kastrozo who bills himself as “The Law,” proved an equal or maybe even better performer, freely trading insults with the crowd and telling taunting onlookers at one point to “All go f….your mothers.”

In Lucha Libre, the role of the referee is “fundamental,” Macazani added.

“Many hate him, many love him, that is the role of the referee, just like any wrestler that might be called a rude one,” reads a profile of Kastrozo in a 2014 issue of La Lucha Juarez. “But no, a referee is impartial and that’s how Kastrozo defines himself.”

Juarez writer, social activist and cultural analyst Juan Carlos Martinez was part of the crowd watching the wrestlers tumble, toss and torment. Martinez’s definition of Lucha Libre is a variation of Macazoni’s. “It means the struggle of the weak vs. the strong, as if the people were confronting the government,” Martinez said.

According to Martinez the noun “la lucha,” or “the struggle,” is a word that is firmly embedded in the Mexican socio-political lexicon: “ La Lucha Libre, La Lucha Villa, la lucha politica…”
Lucha Libre, he continued, incorporates multiple elements laced throughout a   particular culture-falsity, illusion and surrealism, among them. “Mexico is fertile ground for this,” Martinez added about the popularity of Lucha Libre. “That’s why it has been such a success in Mexico: it represents society.”

Featuring profiles of local wrestlers, pin-up posters, match reviews and information on individual rings, Eduardo Macazani’s magazine attests to the historical continuity and global diffusion of Lucha Libre. The magazine’s web presence draws readers from as far off as Japan, Spain, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala, the editorial director said.

Besides the web, migration has ferried Lucha Libre across borders. Mexican wrestling, Macazani said, is especially big in U.S. cities like Atlanta and Denver where large numbers of Mexican immigrants reside. “They take their culture,” he added.

Pablo Montalvo admitted he isn’t particularly an avid fan of Lucha Libre, but held out the possibility that more Sunday afternoon wrestling matches might be in store for the Monu in the future. “The people like it,” he said with a smile. “We’ll probably have it again.”

For more information on Lucha Libre in Juarez:

For photos of the epic Monu matches featuring La Diosa del Ring and others check out:

-Kent Paterson

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