how the world sees america

Americans Love Blood

Note: Please upgrade your Flash plug-in to view our enhanced content.
MEXICO CITY - Arena Mexico is bustling. Men wearing glittering masks hold their wives in one arm and their children in the other, jockeying for a view of the stage. Their favorite sport, Lucha Libre, Mexico's eighty-year-old form of wrestling, is about to begin.

I squeeze in beside a family of four and ask their opinion of the game. "Lucha Libre is a sport," they say, "it's acrobatic." They prefer it to the American version, which they say is "just entertainment." A round-faced teenage girl pipes up. Americans prefer wrestling that looks more like actual violence, she says. In the U.S., she says, "there is blood."

A tuxedoed emcee revs up the crowd as girls in scant bikinis line up, winking at the crowd and applauding the fighters as their names are called. Then, suddenly, a ripped, stocky man in tiny latex shorts and a black mask charges on stage.

A siren sounds. The match starts. The charger flips his contender, a short man in pink with the stage name Dragoncito, or "Little Dragon." Little Dragon flips his competitor back, climbs the ropes, and hurls himself into the air, twirling.

Dragoncito wins the round, and struts off stage. After the match I find him backstage, hanging out beside an ambulance which waits through the matches in case of serious injury. Dragoncito, who won't reveal his real name, says in Mexico wrestlers are smaller, more acrobatic, and agile than their American counterparts, who prefer headlocks and punches to their high-flying maneuvers.

"Here it is about flying moves," he says, "it's about the mystery" of the masked man.

Most luchadors wear masks and never reveal their identity except to family and close friends. The mask, one fighter says, has a nearly sacred quality to those who wear it. But in certain significant mask-vs.-mask fights, the loser can be forced to expose his identity.

Some, however, like Mark Jindrak, and a Japanese wrestler, never put on masks to begin with. They use their foreign identities for a unique kind of mystique. "I don't wear a mask so they know I am from Japan," one says.

Mark, a pro-American wrestler who left the "new">World Wrestling Entertainment circuit and recently moved to Mexico, plays it a bit differently. "My stage name is Marco Corleone," he says, noting his Italian-American roots. "The majority of fans believe my country is Italy, and I can tell you I am better accepted this way." Mexico wouldn't want perhaps their biggest wrestler to be an American trouncing Mexicans -- though his size alone sets him apart from his competitors.

"I'm big, but I'm agile and athletic," Mark says, so he can keep pace here, unlike some of the even bulkier U.S. pro wrestlers.

Luchador2.jpg

Lucha Libre requires real agility here, Mark says, and fans look for spectacular moves -- dives, jumps and flips. In the U.S., however, there is a desire among many fans for "real" violence with hair-pulling, punching and kicking. Mark notes the rapid growth of the Ultimate Fighting Championship as an example of this. Its "no holds barred" approach has led to often brutal contests.

Are the attitudes of U.S. and Mexican wrestling fans toward violence different? I wonder. Clearly much of American wrestling looks just as fake as Lucha Libre.

After the fight, adoring fans stroke Mark's muscles and children pull at his shirt. Cameras flashing, he tells me that whether wrestling in Mexico or the U.S., "the pain is the same."

Join Monthly Mailing List | Del.icio.us | Digg | Facebook

Comments (16)

Californian:

Last time I checked, the pre spanish influenced culture of Mexico was not innocent of shedding human or animal blood for ceremonial purposes. So I'm pretty sure they still like blood. Who doesn't? I like blood, I can't live without mine...I'd die. Now as far as liking to see blood, thats a whole other issue, can't say that I enjoy that, I particularly dislike all Wrestling, doesn't matter what country it's from.
With that written, I'd like to express my concern for publications like these futhering false impressions of the U.S. on the rest of the world.
I think the people of the U.S. are set into arguementative traps to prove an invalid point.

I think some of the previous commentators are correct in acknowledgeing the fact that America-bashing is a very sought after pass-time throughout the world, most probable being that it is free to do and requires zero resources. "Why not talk badly of America? they're only going to help us one day, we could be dying or under a tyrants power and they'd still have the audacity to help us without our permission, how dare they!" and all that jazz. I can see it now...it happens all over the world undoubtably. If America was smart, we'd stop helping the countries that despise our presence, it would be wrong but if they want it that way then so be it.
Only then, we'd be dealing with the complaints that the aid is no longer present. Every country we'll see to it that America regrets every decision we make whether it's good, bad, right, wrong. It's been that way since our inception, it'll be like that in the future.

Theres been no surprizes over time that other countries would dislike ours, the U.S.'s forefathers envisioned it, they also envisioned that people would adore the U.S. and would want to someday call it home. That's the power of freedom for you, some people just can't handle it, and some people want it. Unfortunately, since the percentage that does not want freedom to be a part of life in our country (whether it be U.S. citizens, or foreigners who dislike the U.S.) we are beginning to lack it in certain areas, which is a shame. I personally think it's our duty to "police" the world as people claim the U.S. does. With our population comprising a combination of almost every ethnicity and lifestyle on the planet, everyone more or less feels a direct link to the rest of the world. That is why we feel the need to involve ourselves in world events, it's just too bad certain factions in the world cannot see that or agree with it.

I don't take any of this very personally, I believe people in any country should voice they're opinion, I just wish foreign opinion could reflect a little more of how they'd like people to express opinions about their countries instead of generalizing about one just because that country has done so in the past.

Spell check and publish that Mr. Bakshi if you will.

farce:

What a low-grade attempt at pop psychology. A previous commenter had it right: Why not consider bullfighting instead of staged pro wrestling?

And the Ultimate Fighting Championship is not "no holds barred." There are in fact several dozen holds barred. But that's the sort of factual info that gets in the way of making sweeping generalizations.

Vic van Meter:

You know, I did watch the WWF for a long time when I was younger. Nowadays I still watch UFC pay-per-views.

Americans do have a tendency towards realistic, stylized, or gory violence. Not because of authenticity or our political mindset or really anything that high-minded. The desire for blood is deep, brutal, and largely instinctual. A throwback to days when gladiators in Rome would fight to the death, Americans have a tendency to worship warriors.

Even though Americans certainly have violent tendencies, as a people we rarely look up on someone going out and looking for violence just because violence is fun. We tend to equate that to evil as a society. However, false violence is a way to act on a very deep instinct for competition and warfare without actively taking a gun and shooting up the local supermarket. As evidence, I point at the rise in video games and their enormous consumption here in the states.

All debate aside on their true effect, video games have a marked tendency towards gore and violence. Best sellers in America, and especially best sellers made in America, have a tendency towards shocking gore, fast-paced violence, and marked realism. In a way, it allows someone to act on their violent thirst (and we all have it to some degree as human beings) without actually hurting anyone. In a way, most people have a desire to see and enjoy violence to some degree or another. However, in video games, movies, books, and wrestling, there is little chance of that violence causing the sorts of terror that real war and death causes. Killing a sprite in a game is fun for most people, killing someone in real life will create a fallout of stricken relatives and friends, a hole in society, traumatic stress, and other larger problems.

People love violence, not the consequences of violence, hence the reason Americans seem to bloodthirsty through our media. We have a desire for sophistication, realism, style, and gore. Most Americans do not want to hurt anyone (physically) though. The real-life fallout of even a victory is reason enough for peace.

Mickey:

The Serbs are barbarians. Serbs attacked the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia and set fire on our embassy. An attack on American embassy is same as attack on U.S. soil such as the 9/11 attack in NY.

We are not going to take this lying down. Hell NO!
The Serbs have forgotten who's the boss here.
We bombed Belgrade in the 90s and the Serbs have forgotten their lesson. Lookes like we have to bomb Belgrade again. Only this time we have to teach them a lesson they won't soon forget.

Jeff:

Mr. Bakshi's piece is an obviously biased smear based on a small sample of people that can hardly be compared to the relevant population of the U.S. that is the target of his generalizations. I can't believe the Post publishes so much prejudiced non-sense. I'm glad I cancelled my subscription a long time ago.

Living in the Middle East:

I agree with ZZim's comments above, although he could have also mentioned dog-fighting and the popularity of "narcocorridas" in some segments of Mexican society.

I am a US-expat living in a middle-eastern country, and I am struck by how America-bashing is a popular passtime. Almost all of the people that I meet there are very friendly and generous, but nonetheless, when they starting talking about the US I frequently just have to shake my head about the bull-manure I hear them saying.

Mind you, I don't mean to deny that the US has a tremendous amount to answer for in the Middle East and in much of the world, but still I frequently listen - patiently - to 20 to 30 minute long diatribes and lectures on the USA and its people by people who have never been to the US, who have met very few Americans (if any at all) and who know nothing more about the US than what they see on al-Jazeera, or in the smutty aspects of American commercial culture that they seem to enjoy consuming so much.

They think that they have the USA all figured out to the extent that they can think that they can lecture me about the country that I grew up in and have lived in my whole life.

Clearly, USA-bashing is a popular sport in much of the world. Some of the bashing is deserved, but not all of it, and I suspect that if some of the people who seem to relish bashing the USA - including Mr. Bakshi himself - were to put some of that effort into taking responsibility for their own cultural and political failings they might have a little less to complain about.

For example, maybe Mr. Bakshi could write about why it's impossible for qualified and talented people to get a job because they lack "wasta" (connections), why elected officials use their positions to peddle influence on the behalf or their clan or tribe rather than proposing legistlation that would benefit the society as a whole, or why workers and tradesman who earn a living through honest work are looked down on with contempt by college-educated people who are unemployed and mooching off their relatives so they can spend their days in the coffee shops smoking the arghila, playing cards and rooting for Real Madrid.

And if Mr. Bakshi wants to talk about violence, maybe he could devote a post to some of the following questions: why is it that, in some regions of the country I am living in, women are still being killed for having sexual relations their male relatives do not approve of; why it is that male citizens of the country of Christian background are at risk of being killed for expressing interest in Muslim women; why is it that, in the time that I have been there, I have seen as many fistfights as I have seen in my entire life in the US; and why is it that WWF wrestling and Extreme Fighting, the concern of his post above, are so hugely popular there.

Zathras:

The amount of overlap between pro wrestling in the countries where it is popular is so great that conclusions about how it represents various cultures should be made with caution.

Lots of Mexican wrestlers spend part of their careers in the United States or Japan. American wrestlers have graduated to the WWE from Japanese and Mexican promotions. WWE rejects -- or wrestlers who have fallen out with the company for financial reasons -- sometimes find they can make more money working for an overseas promotion. Many prominent American wrestlers are actually Canadians and Pacific Islanders.

It is true that Mexican wrestlers have reputations for being high-flyers, and Japanese promotions are supposed to emphasize technical mat-wrestling technique; American promotions reward not only bulky musclemen but wrestlers who excel on "the stick" -- the microphone, making speeches and acting offstage to advance storylines. I don't know what that says about their respective cultures. I do know that the largest American promotion, the WWE, is run by a man who in the past has tended to favor very large wrestlers. Also women wrestlers, and occasionally midgets. Sometimes it has worked, and sometimes not; it could say something about American culture, but it must say more about Vince McMahon.

Adrasteia:

I agree that Americans love blood. Our most popular movies are the Rambo-type, multi-movie bloodfests.

But come on. Mexico? Bull fighting and cockfighting...

One last detail, Mexico is part of North America. That makes them Americans too.

Mary:

As a Mexican girl, I used to relieve that lucha libre was nothing but a fake sport, now I know that it’s also a complete spectacle!We don’t say that a fighter is a good one when he or she hits very hard but when they flies a lot and uses correctly a lot of wrestling locks, yes, it’s about showmanship and acrobatics. There’s blood, of course, but it’s not the main purpose of wrestling.

If the US has a greater desire for authenticity, why do you watch wrestling? Do you really think they don’t pretend at all, just for being a little bit more violent? Something more authentic, maybe boxing.

AND I have to say it, Nacho Libre’s an american movie that reflects nothing of Mexican lucha libre.

lynda:

I'm a wrestling fan here in Tucson Arizona. I prefer Mexican wrestling to the WWE, but both are more about drama than real sports. Yes, Mexican wrestling is more acrobatic, and that makes it more exciting to me. Plus the sport in Mexico is rooted in centuries of myth and tradition. By the way I'm 52 year old white female.

Jorge:

Foreigner in DC:
Does the difference discussed here, where in an essentially "fake" sport - American Wrestling leans towards real violence and "blood" whereas Lucha Libre is much more about showmanship and "acrobatics", tell us anything about an American obsession with or lack of aversion for violence as entertainment?

Does it perhaps just say that in the US there is just a greater desire for authenticity -- "if you are going to pretend to fight, then make that as convincing as possible, cross the line even and stop pretending". Whereas in Mexico, people are ok with watching people in tight spandex pretend to fight while actually just dancing and jumping around?

Speaking of fake sports, don't forget we have the NFL which is basically fake rugby. Desire for authenticity here?, please, don't make me laugh.

ZZim:

So, in Mexico you interviewed some sports fans of a sport (fake wrestling) that is practiced in a less fake-violent manner than the same sport in the US. From this interview, you have concluded that perhaps all Americans are more violence-prone than all other humans. Or maybe more fake-violence prone than all other humans, perhaps you should further clarify.

Hmm... This feels like a sweeping generalization not warrented by the amount of data you have collected. Perhaps you should expand your data set. Please interview bullfighting fans in Mexico as they watch a bull get teased and stabbed to death over a 20-minute period. Ask them if they think that, because their sport is illegal in the US, if that makes Americans less violent than everyone else in the world.

Hmm... or perhaps you could visit a legal cock-fight in Mexico. Interview a few fans there. Perhaps while watching chickens with razor blades tied to their feeet slash each other to death they will opine that the reason their sport is illegal in the US is because Americans are less violent than everyone else in the world.

Or perhaps you could interview yourself. Ask yourself why you are so eager to conclude something that is so obviously untrue. Perhaps you could ask yourself if if the political rhetoric of the last few years has affected your ability to make reasonable conclusions from limited data.

Roy:

Watch the movie Nacho Libre

americans love blood:

That's why we're at war!

Amar C. Bakshi:

Not sure if I made it clear enough in my post, but a big question, or distinction, I heard being made by fans and luchadors while there was that Americans have a particular taste for violence, more of a lust for it than other parts of the world. We certainly have ample slasher thrillers, and we have Mel Gibson. Anyway, that was the take I got at Arena Mexico. What do you think about it?

Foreigner in DC:

Does the difference discussed here, where in an essentially "fake" sport - American Wrestling leans towards real violence and "blood" whereas Lucha Libre is much more about showmanship and "acrobatics", tell us anything about an American obsession with or lack of aversion for violence as entertainment?

Does it perhaps just say that in the US there is just a greater desire for authenticity -- "if you are going to pretend to fight, then make that as convincing as possible, cross the line even and stop pretending". Whereas in Mexico, people are ok with watching people in tight spandex pretend to fight while actually just dancing and jumping around?

Post a comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send your comments, questions and suggestions for PostGlobal to Lauren Keane, its editor and producer.