22 November 2011

Turista Libre lucha libre round 3


Turista Libre's most recent dive into masked Mexican wrestling came as a sneak-attack epiphany in defining who or what specifically constitutes the atypical tourism outfit's typical attendee.

Sitting in a blue plastic chair, halfway up the aisles of Tijuana's municipal auditorium and half way through my second double Tecate, I looked around at the randomly assembled group of 15 or so gabachos and pondered something that I've been asked many times but have never really specifically pinned down:

What connects these people?

Some professionals, others unemployed. Some students, others professional students. Some vegans, others carnivores. Some fluent Spanish speakers, others Rosetta Stone poster children. Some Tijuana regulars, others Tijuana virgins. One of those was a creative director from American Eagle, who'd heard from the corner of his Pittsburgh headcorners that all the rumors about big, bad Tijuana weren't all they're cracked up to be and had come to see for himself.

Male, female. Gay, straight. Barely legal, well past the point of being carded. Such a random cluster of who knows how many colors of the demographic rainbow. Something I've noticed on most TL treks.

But before I allowed my tendency to overthink scenes and their existential meanings pull a stink face, Asian mist or some other move from Wikipedia's extensive entry on professional wrestling attacks, I took note of the show playing out in front of me, nothing short of a Cirque du Smackdown, and the manner in which it inspired an ongoing chorus of screams and cheers.

Indoor fireworks, aerosol-can flame throwers and other pyrotechnical surprises. Fatsos dressed as Disney characters and fit reptilian spins on Skeletor. Shemales in tights. The liberty to smoke a cigarette without leaving the building. The fact that we had just dined on double-decker chile-relleno-carne-asada tacos at El Tacomiendo (a clever pun on "él etá comiendo, the colloquial bumpkin way to say "he's eating") on the side of a six-lane thoroughfare. And that we would soon be downtown dancing in Santa Leyenda, an overstuffed lucha-libre-themed bar to overcranked techno and Mexican top-40 remixes. All in all an ongoing sensory overload, the perfect storm of endulgence and escapism whose conditions never seem to come quite together on the other side of the fence.

And then there was Ruby Gardenia, a transexual exótico luchadora who entered the ring in full-blown Carnaval attire: sequined wings, black and hot-pink uniform and towering headdress.

Per the standards of lucha libre storylines, exótico wrestlers traditionally serve as the butt of homophobic, machista jokes that for the most part fly a mile over most non-Spanish speakers' heads. That is, until they realize the crowd is chanting "Beso! Beso! Beso!" (Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!) not because they genuinely long to see Ruby to fall in love and live happily ever after with her ever-willing opponent. No, no. Those puckered, Covergirled lips serve as an unmatchable super power against her enemies. Here, the smooch of the queer trumps the kiss of Judas.

And then it all made sense. Sort of.

Lucha libre is a living, breathing comic book. A soap opera that's socially acceptable for men to obsess over. Which is ironic because it's essentially drag. Men (mostly) masked both literally and figuratively behind personas which they've crafted to a tee. Technically, it differs little from its American counterpart. Best two out of three wins. But for these Americans who for the most part know little more than tired, old orange roid whores as far as professional wrestling goes, all the camp, action, drama, color, drag, acrobatics and, most importantly, sporadic pyrotechnics that make up its Mexican counterpart come as the unrivaled champion of the century. Or at least that's what I was gathering from all the gabacho screams.

These are luxuries we gabachos have always been denied. The uncertainty, the tackiness, the flamboyance, the ambiguity, the zoning violations. And the whiplash return to the nostalgic realm of make-believe.

"It was like, anything goes in there. Little kids throwing folding chairs into the ring. Flames shooting out of aerosol cans," said Mr. American Eagle Midwesterner regarding his first taste of lucha libre. "It was like everyone was 12 again."

Our world is a tired, old orange roid whore.

Yours, Tijuana, is Ruby.




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