Learning Lessons

I stood on the side of the street completely dazed.  Tears welled up in my eyes, not because of the pain but because I had just witnessed what I thought was an attack on cyclists.  Shards of a broom handle and shattered glass lay splintered on the ground around me – shrapnel from just moments before.  “You’re bleeding, Jordan…”

Epic Battle…or excuse to get drunk and shout at each other?

The night had started out much more joyously.  Carla and I rode our bikes to Red Pub, a bar that tries to imitate a British feel and claims it has 120 cervezas.  None of them from Oregon.  She had organized an event through couchsurfing to take Red Pub’s big double-decker bus to Lucha Libre to check out the match.  There were about 8 of us, Mexicans, a Spaniard, a German, and an Argentinian.  I really enjoy hanging out with such an international crowd.  It proves that language isn’t that important for creating a bond.  All you need are beer and dudes in strange masks and bright spandex.

When we arrived the line was immediately split into men and women.  I have no idea why because there wasn’t a man section or a woman section.  However, there is a ricos and pobres section.  Rich and poor.  You know this because as soon as we entered Arena Jalisco the people in the lower sections were all turned to the upper deck, away from the excitement in the ring and were hacking their arms at the attendants and shouting, “Pobres, Pobres, seles va camion!” Translated as Poor people, Poor people, you’ll miss the bus!  The upper deck responded with “Chingale su madre, chingale su madre,” fuck your mother, fuck your mother (I only wrote the translation twice so I could write fuck your mother twice).  The battles are always between los Tecnicos and los Rudos.  Los Tecnicos are the good guys and are usually decked out in sparkly neon colors.  They have to follow the rules of one fighter in the ring at a time and no nutshots.  But while los Tecnicos are standing on the ropes and riling up the crowd, los Rudos jump in sporting black capes and masks with horns and do  flying double kicks and mess up those gay Tecnicos.  I use the pejorative because Luchas is all about shouting puto! at the spectators and the wrestlers, and the word actually means fag.  It’s actually astonishing how much the word is used here, even in gay-friendly Guadalajara.  My gay friends call my non-gay friends puto and vice-versa.

Puto! Puto! Puto!

The fans of Luchas are often more creative and don’t limit themselves to homophobic taunts.  Markus, a German friend and teacher at my work has a mop-top and droopy eyes.  A rowdy group behind us started hacking at him and shouting “Shaggy! Shaggy!”  Fortunately he had a double cup of beer to bury his blushing in.  A woman of Barbic proportions walked past the stage.  “Vuelta! Vuelta! Vuelta!” the crowd shouted (turn around).  Like a porn star spotted in public, the woman through her arm in the air to better display her ample chest, produced her heiny for proper examination and conducted an impressive yet timid 360 to ensure everyone got a good look.  The crowd erupted with cheers.  I think some lucha was sitting on another one.  The group behind us recognized Carla’s beauty and hacked “Que se pare! Que se pare!” (stand up).  I had hoped for the opportunity to embarrass Carla all night and joined with the cheer.  She, in turn, punched me.  The crowd booed, but they didn’t have to be upset for too long before a woman with a rack large enough to feed four sets of triplets bounced up and rubbed her boobs over her clean and tight white shirt.  “Chi chis!  Chi chis!” (guess what that means) the crowd chanted.  Monkey screams and animal whistles resounded through the packed stadium as every man stood up as the woman removed her shirt and revealed her jumpy jugs.  At least that’s what I assume because those that couldn’t get a look had climbed on the backs of their friends to get one.  I had a father holding a baby in front of me so…no jugvision for me.  Later, after realizing that my blonde hair, blue eyes, and mustache was not German, the rowdy group behind us hacked in my direction and shouted, “Hijo de Bush!  Hijo de Bush!” (son of Bush).  I threw up conciliatory arms and pleaded with them that I had no relation to our old imbecilic ruler.

Girls! Girls! Girls!

As if the women in the audience weren’t enough eye candy for the audience, girls wearing bikinis that snaked around their bodies and showed off their thick legs and squishy ta-ta’s came out in two rows of four to hold up high signs declaring the end of the match.  I hadn’t even realized it was close to the end and wiped beer from my mustache before exiting the match.  All of us couchsurfers laughed and exchanged puto!s and vuelta!s as we tried to find our way back to the bus.  We stepped out into the glowing lights of silent police lights swirling (they always leave them on) outside the arena.  A huge group of cyclists, organized by the group, Teatro en Bici.  Teatro en Bici organizes a ton of rides to get people to experience Guadalajara’s music, art, and performance culture by bicycle.  The first time I went to Lucha Libre was with the group.  I through my hands in the air and shouted “Bici! Bici! Bici!”  The cyclists cheered back before taking off.  But within moments I heard glass splashing on the street and turned to find a gang of 5 men had broken up the ride and were throwing beer bottles at a lone cyclist.  He had his seat in his hand and was ready to attack the first guy that came near him.  I hate broken glass in the street and hated to see a cyclist getting attacked.  I thought it was because he was a cyclist that he was being attacked.  Filled with pride for my fellow cyclist, beer courage, and tourist naivete I walked out into the street to man wielding a bottle and shouting at the cyclist with my hands up and repeatedly said, “Calmate.”

At least that’s what I think.  The moments after I stepped into the street went very fast.  I remember it took me a long time to remember the word, calmate, and just as long to convince myself it was correct.  To be honest, I’m not even sure I said it before something crashed across my back and hit me in the head.  I stood there feeling my head to see if there was any blood and then a glass bottle shattered on my shoulder.  I ducked a little, not sure where to go as Carla rushed up and pulled me back to the curb.  “What are you doing, Jordan?”  I snapped back to reality and said, “I had to help that cyclist.”  I assured her I was okay, and then found out that she had thrown her arm in the air to block another broom attack and was hurt too.  We both looked at my shoulder and saw blood seeping through the now-shredded shirt.  “I have to go back,” I said.  “No, don’t go!” my friends insisted.  “I won’t get involved anymore.  I just gotta see if the guy is okay.”  Lalo, a couchsurfer from Guadalajara came with me to the corner, but the police had calmly walked all violent people away and the tussle was over.  “Why didn’t you arrest anyone?” I said in Spanglish and put my hands behind my back to communicate what I meant.  “What are you doing?”  “You need to respect me,” replied an officer.  “No I don’t,” I said.  “Because you aren’t doing anything.”

The police here in Guadalajara have a very oppressive presence.  Their lights are always flashing.  They’ve slowed down to inspect while I walked down the street, and yet, when something violent actually happened they did nothing.  No medical assistance, no arrests.  Carla and I are fine.  The cut is small and the mark from the broom is almost gone, but my disdain for the police still lingers.  But even more so is a new understanding that I am not home.  I am not in a place where I know where good and bad neighborhoods exist.  I don’t trust the police in the States, but I at least trust them to quickly stop a fight.  I can’t do that here.  I don’t understand the language and cannot defend fights I know nothing about.  My friends do not think the cyclist was attacked because he was a cyclist.  The saddest thing I have learned is that this is not my home to change things.  Back home I enjoyed my work with shaping public opinion towards cyclists and knew how to be an effective citizen advocate.  Here, I cannot afford to take the risk.  And again, it isn’t my home to change.  I have written a letter and sent it to a newspaper and radio show to provide a story that will hopefully inspire Mexicans to demand more of their police.  And from now on, I am going to keep my head down and stay out of trouble.  I still have to bike back home, right?

2 responses to “Learning Lessons

  1. Dude you live in a crazy place! what an incredible glimpse into Mexican culture. I can’t wait to hear more from you in person, as long as you don’t get shived with a beer bottle or tossed in the clink by some pissy underpaid cop 😉 Sounds like a truly amazing adventure thus far!

    • It’s not so much Mexican culture as my own stupidity. Yesterday I went to a bar near Teatro en Bici and one of the main guys said, “Hey, aren’t you the guy from Lucha Libre?” And then he went on to tell me how dumb I was (in a friendly way). Now I’m not only a famous gringo, but a famously stupid gringo.

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