Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Drug-trafficking civilization by Mexican pro wrestlers

It is another rowdy fight night at the Arena Mexico as burly fighters in bikini briefs and colorful masks are flung from the ring amid a rain of insults from the crowd.

Mexican professional wrestling, known as lucha libre, is pure activity. Like its steroidal cousin to the north, it is as funny as it is phony, but the Mexican style is less talk, more aerials.

"The Mexicans are not as good of fakers as the Americans, but they're improved acrobats," said Jorge Chabat, a lecturer at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics in Mexico City, world-renowned specialist on drug trafficking cartels and lifelong lucha libre fanatico.

We are here to take pleasure in the matches and to ponder a mystery: While "narcocultura" - the trappings and myths of dope-smuggling, gun-toting millionaire hillbillies such as Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman - has penetrated all other element of Mexican pop culture, from movies and music to TV and religion, the masked lucha libre characters and their corny good-vs.-evil story lines have stayed untouched.

"Perhaps the reason is that lucha is more blameless," said Sandra Granados, press deputy for the World Council of Lucha Libre, one of the main promoters.

But Chabat said: "It is almost certainly because the government has told them they cannot. And I can appreciate why. I can't picture a wrestling character called 'El Traficante' in the ring, or 'El Super Narco,' or 'the Assassin.' I can't imagine they would let it."

Chabat is session in the good seats, on the "good guy" side of the arena. In Mexican wrestling, there are two archetypes: "tecnicos," who play fair, use a traditional wrestling style and serve as a general moral force in the universe, and the "rudos," the boo-hiss heels who cheat, double-team and hit below the belt.

It is not too complex. The tecnicos have names such as Strongman, Angel de Oro and Mistico, the most well-liked luchador in Mexico today. The rudos, meanwhile, include Virus, Mephisto and Charly Manson.

"The government would be very worried, very anxious," Chabat said of the possibility of fighters portraying drug lords. "The lucha is a very powerful weapon in the popular civilization.