The luchador enters the ring, past the dancing ring girls, coming out of the smoke, basking in the presence of the crowd. It doesn’t matter if they love him or hate him, only that they scream. The noise is everything, cursing, shouting, chanting, feeding the luchadores. Then the next comes out, leaping into the ring, standing high on the ropes, screaming back at the crowd. Then the third, winding up the crowd even more. Then their opponents arrive. All three luchadores come in at once, and the crowd screams with hate. By their dark costumes you know they are the villains. They curse and scream back at the crowd but no one can be heard over the cacophony.
The bell rings, the fight begins. One on one the men fight, punching, slapping, and throwing each other around the ring. Two men fight one, then three. The ref is shouting, pointing his fingers in the air, uselessly moving around the ring. People are thrown from the ring into the crowd, then one of the luchadores takes someone’s beer and throws it at his enemy. One of the ring girls comes out, carrying a sign. Somehow it’s the third round, and there is no sign of who is winning.
They start pulling off a man’s mask, but he fights them off. Another man is pinned, and the ref begins counting. He breaks out, only to see his partner go down. The ref counts him out, and the fight is over. The crowd screams, the victors make a show of it, taking the mic and yelling over the crowd. To the left someone’s grandmother is screaming a stream of curses I’ve only heard in Tijuana. The victors march out, the losers limp. The music rises, and the next match begins.
If you’ve ever seen wrestling, you know something of the insanity of Lucha Libre, but not nearly all. The chaos of the ring is such that you never really know what round it is, who is winning, or if anything the ref does matters. There was no way to tell who was on what side, who was fighting, who was winning, or even what round it was. The crowd screamed at the ring as much as at each other. Chants of “chinga su madre, pobres” from the ringside seats happened at least once a round, and the people in the cheap seats chanted back.
None of it made any sense, and I grew up watching wrestling. It was a good vibe, even the cursing grandmother was laughing more often than not. As a martial artist I could see the techniques they were using, and when the made mistakes and probably hurt someone. Watching the wrestler threaten the ref I saw his wrist wasn’t straight. If he hit anyone with that he would have just hurt himself. It was last minute, so it was just me and Chino (the nickname the locals gave him), but it was fun. I’ll go again sometime, once I can stay up without having to worry about work the next day.
It’s the little things about this place that still get me. You’d think that the bus would have picked us up in the same place it dropped us off, but nope. Pickup was three blocks away, so we missed it and had to walk back. It wasn’t far, and we got a beer when we got back to the bar. We laughed, Chino was yelled at by the crowd, and we generally had a good night out. I’m looking forward to the next one.
One of the things I noticed about walking in this city is that you meet a lot more people. In my twenty plus years in San Diego I only came across people I knew once a year at the most. Here, every week I cross paths with someone. Everyone walks, or takes the bus. Students, friends, teachers, random store owners, or just strangers looking for directions. I wonder how many connections we’ve lost driving everywhere in the States. You never see anyone or talk to anyone from a car, and if you do road rage is often involved. At first I thought it was just the small city that made it more likely that I would meet people, but now I’m pretty sure it’s just the lack of cars.
On the buses though, it’s different. Most people never speak to each other, and no one seems to want the window seat. When you enter the bus here, anyone sitting in a double chair with an empty seat next to them is always in the center aisle. If someone wants the other seat, they move and let them pass rather than moving closer to the window. This isn’t just for short trips either, I’ve seen the same behavior on five minute trips as on hour long trips. I wonder if they’re trying to keep the bench to themselves, if they simply want to be able to exit the bus easily, or if it’s just an aversion to being near the window. After having a window drop on my head when I first got here, I can understand the desire for distance.
Sometimes the behavior is just strange, like the other day when I was walking past Parque de Revolucion. There were couples lying in the grass, holding each other, or kissing, surrounded by garbage blown in by the wind. I understand being distracted, but why would you even choose to lie down in the first place with a pile of garbage and old clothes near by. The garbage was cleaned up a couple days later, but at the time it just didn’t make sense. Yeah, the garbage isn’t lethal, but I doubt I could relax knowing someone’s nearly empty cup of horchata might roll over and splash me.
It’s something about settling for the way things are here or if it’s just the ability to not be aware of the garbage anymore. One of the studies we were reviewing in sociology talked about a man who lived in a poor neighborhood in New York. The people who had to live there just got used to the way things are, and they stopped noticing the trash piling up in the alleys. It’s always amazing to me that people can rationalize anything, if it’s subtle and endures long enough.