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[Blog] Lucha Libre in Boyle Heights

Lucha Libre at the Casa del Mexicano in Boyle Heights – a very colorful affair. Here, the fighter we dubbed “Green Lantern” prepares to battle “El Indio.”

“Aaaiiiiiiiiiiii!”   The bulk of a man shrieked as he thudded to the ground in an attack on his opponent.  The two flailed about on the floor, each trying to pin down the other.  The spectators roared with cheers and put downs alike.   “Go get ’em!”  cried some.   “Pinche pendejo!”  belted others.   The noise was accented by a sound not always heard at sports events: raucous laughter.

Lucha libre is supposed to be silly.

The wrestlers dress up in extravagant, flamboyant costumes with out-sized personalities to match.  Their goal is not just to defeat the other, but put on a show.  The sport originated in Mexico as masked wrestling.

And the Casa del Mexicano in Boyle Heights is quite a theatrical venue.  In 2010, muralist Hugo Martinez Tecoatl spent months painting the inside – all 4,000 square feet – in bright colors with scenes of Mexican culture and history.So you can imagine that the event was a feast for the senses.  I saw vivid colors all around me; inhaled the stench of sweat and beer; munched on tacos of mejilla and cabeza; felt the cluster of people around me as we leaned forward to cheer or duck flying objects (mainly, pieces of torta and baguette that a couple of pranksters had brought to toss around for fun).

I don’t know if Lucha libre is for me.  Even though the fighting is pretty harmless – the wrestlers aren’t out for blood and nobody gets seriously hurt – I don’t enjoy watching people get slapped around.  But I do appreciate the immense influence of Lucha libre on Mexican culture.

So thank you to Jenn, my friend from Colburn ballet classes, for taking me to Lucha libre (following delicious tacos at Guisados) and giving me a new cultural experience!  Jenn and I bonded over Los Lobos – I’m a fan of the legendary East LA band and she’s the niece of member David Hidalgo.   We look forward to more LA adventures together.

One piece of the Casa del Mexicano mural evokes deep meaning with its rich symbols: a wolf, bull, hippie protester, indigenous figures, downtown skyline, parking meter, and bridge between Boyle Heights and downtown LA.

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