It’s 10 o’clock on a Monday night, and we’re sitting on concrete bleachers inside the Puebla Arena. Through a chain-link barrier that prevents spectators from hurling objects into the ring, we watch in awe as a muscly, shirtless wrestler leaps over the ropes and rushes up an aisle to our left, cursing at someone in the stands. The obscenities, complete with hand gestures, are flying. ¡Chinga tu madre! ¡La tuya en vinagre! ¡Puto! Several rounds of insults later, I stand up to see who’s causing all the commotion. Turns out, the foul-mouthed fan is a petite indigenous woman who looks old enough to be my grandmother.
This scene is typical of what transpires at the weekly matches held in Puebla by the Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL). Based in Mexico City, the organization — perhaps the oldest professio nal wrestling outfit in existence — holds events in Puebla every Monday featuring virtually the same cadre of athlete-performers. Teams of two to three wrestlers square off in a series of bouts that start around 9 p.m. with lesser-known acts and culminate with superstars like Místico, Máscara Dorada, and Mephisto. The fights typically pit rudos (rule-breaking rude boys) against técnicos (the technically proficient good guys). Many wear masks, a practice that dates to the 1930s and pays homage to Mexican history as old as the Aztecs: Each colorful design evokes an animal, god, or ancient hero that the wrestler assumes during his performance. For more details about the sport in English, including rules and weight classes, click here.
The matches sometimes feature women athletes, too, but that’s about the only politically correct aspect of las luchas. (One difference between Puebla and Mexico City is the absence of bikini-clad female escorts here, although you may see dwarfs dressed as furry animals…) Expect moments of utter pandemonium and, if you sit in the front rows, be prepared to become part of the show. Also of note is the somewhat bewildering array of treats and potential projectiles available from vendors — beer and soda, cotton candy, boiled shrimp, slinky toys, Blow-Pops, cemitas, devil horns that light up — which helps explain the chain-link barrier. Outside the arena, vendors sell even more wares, including full-size souvenir masks that run about 300 pesos each ($25).
Located in the city’s historic center at 13 Oriente #402, the Puebla Arena is easy to find. If you plan to go, look for the current week’s lineup on the CMLL Puebla page the Thursday prior to the match. Tickets generally cost 50 to 120 pesos each and are available from the arena box office.
Rebecca Smith Hurd is a freelance writer and editor who explores Puebla, Mexico, for her blog, www.AllAboutPuebla.com, where this post was originally published. Follow her on Twitter: @allaboutpuebla.