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Mexican pro wrestlers keep drug-trafficking culture out of the lucha libre ring

The "narco" lifestyle has penetrated almost every aspect of Mexican culture. But Mexican professional wrestling, known as lucha libre, avoids themes tied to drug trafficking.

The newspapers exude moral panic over youths aping gangster fashions. Narco style has even found its way into religion, represented by the popular saint Jesus Malverde and by Santa Muerte, the angel of death.

"If there are no narco-vs.-cop characters among the lucha repertoire, it is not because of any specific prohibitions or taboos but due to lack of imagination, as the theater of the luchas is very strict, rigid, codified and restricted," said David Lida, author of the book "First Stop in the New World," a street-level panorama of contemporary Mexico City.

According to Heather Levi, an anthropologist at Temple University and author of "The World of Lucha Libre," Mexican wrestling does offer a window into the country's soul but not as a direct social commentary on the daily news.

"Lucha libre is the joke that everyone gets and agrees not to mention," she said. "It is a subtle parody of the system as a whole - the masks, the secrecy, double-crossing, official corruption, as represented by the referees."

In the ring below, Chabat is watching Blue Panther, who is trapped against the ropes by the upstart El Terrible. The Panther is a middle-aged, unmasked wrestler who wears white briefs and looks a bit like a Mexican Homer Simpson. The crowd is shouting insults at both him and his attacker.

"This is a sport where people become euphoric. They experience a transformation," Granados said of the wrestling commission. "It lets us do all that we cannot do on the streets. We do it for the relief.

"You can shout all you want, say what you want to say, and you leave relaxed. Even the psychologists recommend lucha as a therapy."

Chabat is enjoying himself.

"This is a good show tonight," he says. "Very professional, and totally safe."

Maybe that is the main draw.


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