by Karlie Marrazzo
The Día de la Constitución long weekend in early February was over and the residents of Mexico City had flooded back into town, filling the streets with traffic and choking the air with smog. Car horns blared incessantly and pedestrians swarmed the sidewalks. In the centre of the city, I emerged from the belly of a muggy metro station and ascended to the top of the Torre Latinoamericano in the thick humidity and gazed out over the megalopolis as far as the smog would allow my eyes to see. I reflected over my first trip to Mexico and anticipated my final experiences in the city, representing two quintessential yet completely different sides of Mexico – lucha libre and the surreal art of Frida Kahlo.
Lucha libre, known more simply as Mexican wrestling, takes place all over the city, but the home of the Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre league is the Arena Mexico in the working class Colonia Doctores neighbourhood. It was a Friday night, and I met up with Tania, a Mexico City local and world traveler. We rode the metro to the Cuauhtemoc metro station to meet up with a local Couchsurfing group, who we ended up splitting with shortly afterwards.
The night was already dark at 8pm as we walked towards the arena. Illuminated stands lined both sides of the sidewalks, with vendors selling t-shirts, masks in every colour representing every wrestler, figurines and more. The ticket booth was nothing more than a hole tucked into the outer wall of the arena. There are several price levels of tickets available, and on the advice of the Couchsurfers we purchased the cheapest tickets available for 40 pesos each (less than $3). I didn’t do my usual research ahead of time, but if I had I definitely would have sprung for the higher priced tickets (about $30) to get a seat closer to the action. The non-descript entrance to the arena led to a grim cement foyer, from which we ascended the steep steps to sit in one of the highest rows of an arena that holds 16,500.
A match between two 3-on-3 teams of luchadoras (female wrestlers) was already taking place, getting the crowd amped up for the main event. I was immediately drawn into the insanity of the action, laughing and cheering in my seat. I’m not typically the type of person who attends many sporting events, and when I do it is very rare for me to scream or jump up, but something came over me and the action had me hooked. The crowd was hugely diverse and I was surprised to see tons of families with young kids, both because of the time of the event and the amount of swearing and heckling that was going on. Even the little kids were getting into it, chanting, screaming and jumping out of their seats with the rest of us.
After the luchadoras came the main event – the luchadores. If the women were warming up the crowd, the luchadores set the place on fire. There were three sets of fights in all, each with three rounds, featuring over 20 luchadores. Big names like Mistico, Blue Panther, Marco Corleone and my personal favourite Máximo Sexy, ran across the ring, climbed the ropes and pounced on each other from every possible angle with extreme energy and acrobatic skill, all while wearing flashy, skintight costumes and the iconic masks. There was a little person dressed in full luchadore regalia, and the wrestlers had their way with him, swinging him and tossing him through the air. The whole show was the most bizarre, hilarious and entertaining thing I’ve seen live.
The following day I experienced another iconic, yet completely opposite, piece of Mexico’s cultural identity. I made the hour-long trek to the historic centre of Coyoacán to visit the former home of the incomparable Frida Kahlo. Coyoacán is a former village that used to be on the outskirts of Mexico City that was swallowed up by the city sprawl. It is a now a neighbourhood in its own right, home to beautiful street art, cobblestone roads and lovely park squares, the smell of flowers perfuming the air.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t familiar with many of Frida’s paintings until I visited La Casa Azul (The Blue House), more formally known as the Frida Kahlo Museum. It was in this home that Frida spent most of her tumultuous and short life. She was born in The Blue House 1907 and died there just a week after her 47th birthday. She lived most of her life in the home that her father built, first with her family and later with husband and fellow artist Diego Rivera.
The small museum is one of the most popular in all of Mexico City, so I would advise anyone to buy tickets in advance on the website in order to skip the massive lines that snake around the block. The striking blue home is built around a beautiful inner courtyard and garden, complete with volcanic stone walls created by Diego, a fountain and a stepped pyramid displaying a collection of pre-Hispanic artworks. The main floor houses the permanent collection featuring paintings spanning Frida’s career, from her early works and self portraits to one of my personal favourites, Viva La Vida. Arguably her most famous painting, The Two Fridas, is housed in the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City. Other rooms in the house are set up exactly as they were when the fiery duo lived in the house, including Diego’s bedroom and the kitchen where the couple hosted infamous dinner parties for artists, intellectuals and revolutionaries.
Upstairs held the greatest treasures for me – the artists’ studio and bedroom. Frida spent most of her life confined to a wheelchair or her bed, painfully strapped in to rigid medical corsets to support her spine. She suffered lifelong pain due to polio, which she had since the age of 6, and a freak tram accident when she was 18 years old, along with many other health problems. Seeing her wheelchair set up in front of her easel, her oil paints and paintbrushes neatly laid out on her table made me feel as if she could return at any moment.
Her bedroom was much the same way she left it. I stood in front of the small bed in which she passed away, the mirror still hanging above it so she could paint, her brilliant mind imprisoned in its own body. Her polished black death mask lay on the bed, cloaked in rich scarves, and her own ashes sat atop a small dresser. Emotion flooded over me as I processed everything I had seen and learned about Frida that day. I felt inspired and empowered by this powerful woman, faced with so many hardships in her lifetime, who was able to channel her strength and creativity to live her life on her own terms as a true individual. I often think of her, look to her picture and her artwork to channel my own strength in hopes that I can be even a fraction of the woman that she was.
32 thoughts on “Finding Frida and lucha libre in Mexico City”
Wow, sounds like an adventure. I like sports and would have been screaming right along with you. 🙂 Sadly, I would have probably been crying too seeing the room and hearing/learning about all her medical issues. So young 🙁 Thank you for sharing your stories.
Yay! Thanks for using my images of the lucha. You’re transporting me right back to watching them during my first ever week in México City!
I LOVED going to the Frida Kahlo museum when I was in Mexico City – her art and her life story are amazing, and I loved seeing her house! Didn’t get to go to lucha libre but would love to witness it – in fact, I’m thinking of going back in September and will have to do it then!
Watching female wrestlers in Mexico must be an interesting experience! Also Fridas Kahlo house/museum looks really cool! I love that outside art! Your photos are so nice! I can’t wait to visit Mexico one day!
I love Frida Kahlo, but I haven’t been to Mexico yet… I would love to visit La Casa Azul! That just took its place on my wanderlist!
What an interesting visit. I visited a special exhibit about Frida Kahlo not too long ago. She was a really interesting lady, and I’d love to check out the one in Mexico City.
I love your writing style, I really felt instantly transported to Mexico City. It’s a city (and country!) that I have never been to but would really like to. I didn’t know much about Frida Kahlo until I saw the film about her (which incidentally is brilliant!) – from that point on I fell in love with her work and her as a person – I’m sure I would feel the way you described you did if I were to visit her home and city. She was a truly fascinating and inspiring woman. Well done for writing such an evocative and inspiring post, I really enjoyed it 🙂
I am planning a trip to Mexico and everything to do with Frida Kahlo is top of my list! Love your photos of the museum and thanks for the tip about buying tickets ahead of time!
I would love to go to the Frida Kahlo Museum. I don’t know much about her life either, but I’d love to see how she lived. I think I would stay in that area of Mexico City if I ever get a chance to go there.
You know, the more I read about Mexico the more I just don’t know where to start! What a fascinating country and 2 very contrasting but exciting days for you. Perfect.
I love Frida Kahlo’s art and would absolutely love to visit this museum. Unfortunately I’ve only been to southern Mexico so that will have to wait. It’s such a fascinating country, love the contrast you made between the wrestling and history both very related to Mexico nowadays!
loved this! I’m a big fan of Frida Khalo! reading about your exploring her house was so inspiring!
Ohh, how I love Mexico City; my former home that I miss so much it almost breaks my heart (and I just moved away from it one month ago.
I love reading posts on Mexico.
Visiting Frida Kahlo’s house was such a special experience. Like, it’s the place where she actually lived.
It’s cool to read that you attended a Lucha Libre as well! Tourists mostly don’t do that and it’s such a Mexican thing to do! Really cool that you went!
La Casa Azul is on my bucket list! Mexican wrestling is…not, haha! But it does look interesting!
This looks like so much fun! I have had Mexico City on my bucketlist for a while now, several of my friends however keep saying it’s dangerous. But I see it as everywhere is dangerous, but living my life in fear isn’t something I ever want to do.
Also, I love Frida Kahlo! I am looking forward to making this trip a reality!
Oh wow!! I would to check out both of these icons of Mexico. And I love how polar opposite they are. I always giggle at lucha libre though because it reminds me of nacho libre. Lol.
Wow! I have now added lucha libre to my bucket list. That match looked awesome and all of the photos made me feel like I was right there with you. I would also love to see the Frida Kahlo museum… I had no idea she suffered from so many health issues and a freak accident. Regardless, the art is still so beautiful!
Whenever I’m feeling like I “can’t” do something, I think of Frida!
What a contrast of emotions between the luchadores and Frida Kahlo’s home. I truly felt like I was experiencing both with you as I read along!
Mexico is one of those countries I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time. I am a big fan of Frida’s work, so I’m sure this museum would be at the top of my list. Her story is simply fascinating and inspiring; and her art is out of this world. Thanks for sharing 🙂
I love your photos! I have been so interested in Frida and the Mexico beyond the tourist sites of Cancun!
I have never been to Mexico City, but I really want to go. I love your suggestions, especially for finding Frida. I love her so much!
How cool to be able to see Frida’s bedroom and studio! I love Frida and am adding this to my must see list for Mexico City. Thank you!
I love Frida! She’s truly an inspiration! This is so on my bucket list. I’m hoping to hit up more of Central America next winter. And desperately hoping that I can head here.
I’ve never been to Mexico City but would love to go someday. Frida Kahlo as a person sounds amazing. Really admire her determination and strength to live life to the fullest despite her diseases and other challenges. I want to see her house and her art in person!
You are an incredible writer! I am instantly drawn into your stories! Great job!
That is so kind of you Paige, thank you!
wow! such a cool experience you just had. I’m not a big sport fan, but i enjoy cheering with crowds. LOL. i can just imagine the excitement in the air! 😀
I didn’t know about the museum! I would love to visit Mexico City and see it for myself! Beautiful writing describing it and her life <3
what a great detailed post! Im going to mexico city soon and i cant wait for my own adventure!
This was a great read. My friend and I are here visiting from the United States (Georgia) and went to the Museum yesterday. I, too, did not know much about her life but which the museum offered a lot of information. I’d also agree with the smog. It’s a killer! Oh and the altitude! I’m still trying to get acclimated to the difference.