Monday, May 31, 2010

Lucha libre: wrestling with Thunder Boy and Princessa Maya

Divino has his way with Thunder Boy on the ramp up to the ring, whose ropes are sometimes insufficient to contain all of the action and drama. Cameras aren´t allowed in the arena, but I snapped some images with my iPhone before an usher told me to desist.

You can´t live in Mexico without taking in a match of Lucha Libre (freestyle wrestling).

It´s a combination of morality play, superhero drama and acrobatics. Masked Mexican wrestlers are folk heroes. In movies they fight vampires, criminals and other forces of evil. The masks have a historical and cultural significance in this country whose indigenous roots run deep.

Here is the official website of the World Council of Lucha Libre and here is an article about the history and meaning of the sport.

On Sunday night a friend from the University who is a big fan took me to the Arena Coliseo to see six matches.

Siluetta throws Princessa Maya to the canvas.

Women wrestlers

It was family night. Adults pay $2 to $12 and kids get in for 40 cents. There were maybe 1,000 people for a two-hour spectacle that started at 6. A beer is $2, a bag of microwaved popcorn $1.50.

Not on the card was the leadoff match between two women wrestlers, Princessa Maya and Siluetta (a more appropriate name might have been Big Shadow).

They did some impressive acrobatic and gymnastic moves as they threw each other around the ring for a few minutes. Part of the deal is to create a villain who takes cheap shots. Then the aggrieved makes a comeback and overcomes evil. But sometimes evil wins.

Siluetta won out over Princessa Maya.

Kids love the wrestlers´ masks. Stores have hundreds of different styles and colors.

Aerial combat outside the ring

The top-billed match was between three guys without masks -- Strong Man, Gigante Bernard and Blue Panther -- and the three masked heroes, Atlantis, Averno and Mephisto.

Gigante Bernard and Strong Man were gringos who had a Mexican ally, the Blue Panther, and they beat the snot out of the three masked wrestlers. I wonder if the gringos always win in these dramas.

Gigante Bernard and his two partners claim victory, while the vanquished lie at the right.

Strong Man shakes hands with the fans. Sorry about the light.

In any case, the referee was completely ineffective at keeping the wrestlers inside the ring. A favorite aerial maneuver is to stand on the ropes in the corner and launch oneself onto an opponent.

They execute these flying maneuvers outside the ring as well, which looked awfully dangerous to the wrestlers, not to speak of the audience and vendors.

Leo, a handsome young guy without a mask, was a favorite with the young crowd. He took on the Exterminador.

Wrestler action figures.

The wrestler Alpha pose is everything. The jersey is for the Black Lions, the University of Guadalajara´s professional soccer team.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Family of free agents, wandering the world

Cindy and I hung out with some journalists from Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Paraguay when we were in Bogotá, Colombia, recently. We spent an afternoon at the country house of our hosts, Carlos Eduardo Huertas and his wife, Lili, at extreme right and left.

Christine the mathematician is on a three-month visiting scholar gig at the Max Planck Institute in Potsdam, Germany, and has been giving lectures around Germany and, most recently, London.

She has started blogging. She´s the funniest member of the family. I liked her take on the low-cost airline RyanAir´s service from Berlin to London.

Potsdam is near Berlin, about six hours by train from Stuttgart, where our other daughter, Bridget has been dancing with the Stuttgart Ballet for some 14 years (here´s her website).

Bridget is now a guest artist with the company, so she has been booking free agent gigs to dance and choreograph in various cities around Germany. Here´s a description in English of of some of her latest choreography.

So the two daughters have had a chance to hang out together a bit on weekends.

Which brings us to Patrick, the jazz saxophonist, who has been out playing jobs in New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, etc.

The jazz scene in Madison, Wis., where he and his girlfriend, Emily, are living is not providing enough work for him. So he´s been on the road a lot.

Cindy and I were recently in Bogotá, Colombia, for about a week. It was our first time there. The Colombian organization of investigative journalists hosted an international conference and invited me to give a series of seminars and classes to their members.

Cindy has become a professional tour guide. She puts together briefing books on every place we visit, with a list of all the sights, the history, maps, etc. Without her research, I would have been ignorant of the significance of many recent events in the country.

The wars between liberals and conservatives depicted in Gabriel García Márquez´s "One Hundred Years of Solitude" have gone on intermittently for most of two centuries, in different guises with different names for the players. They´re still going on: right-wing paramilitaries vs. the left-wing guerillas, the FARC.

Cindy takes hundreds of photos while I´m in conference rooms.

Here´s a garden in the heart of Bogotá.

Bogotá has a dramatic skyline. It´s set amid mountains 8,600 feet above sea level. Climbing stairs leaves you short of breath.

May Day demonstrations in Bogotá brought out activists who occasionally clashed with the police.

We spent a morning inside the cathedral of salt, which was built in the depths of a mine near Bogotá.

Santiago, Chile, nine hours in the air from Guadalajara

The skyline of Santiago, Chile, city of more than 5 million, a third of the country´s population. Smog is a problem.

Cindy returned to Guadalajara and I went on to Santiago, Chile, where I had been invited by the Universidad Mayor to give a two-day seminar on new business models for news, which has become something of a specialty for me.

The University of Guadalajara, where I´m working, is trying to get an agreement with the Universidad Mayor to offer a joint master´s degree in digital journalism, completely online. I´m working on the design of the Guadalajara master´s.

The Santiago folks took me to a couple of very nice restaurants and treated me to lobster and fish of all kinds.

It is hard to describe just how far south Santiago is. It´s about nine hours in the air from our home in Guadalajara, Mexico, about the same distance from New York to Warsaw, Poland, 4,300 miles.

Signs of wealth

The city´s streetscapes reflect a history with the British, who exploited the country´s nitrate deposits, and other European powers.

I enjoyed using Santiago´s subway system. Chile is among the most developed and wealthiest countries in the hemisphere.

There were few visible signs of the February earthquake, although I heard from a reporter that quite a few apartment buildings, especially those built in recent years, were ruled uninhabitable.

It´s fall in Santiago.

College students (not mine) are the same everywhere.