Warrior Queens: Female Wrestling in Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico, 2011

Lucha libre, literally “free fight” in Spanish, is a unique Mexican sporting event and cultural phenomenon. Although Lucha libre has been traditionally a male domain since its inception in the early 20th century, Mexican women have always been accepted in the ring playing a role of a hostess. Since the 1950s, due to the legendary female wrestlers as Chabela Romero, Irma González, Estela Molina and Lola González later on, the women have gained respect of the audience and started to fight their own matches. However, the female wrestling in Mexico was not completely legalized until 1986.

Mexican wrestling is based on aerial acrobatics and rapid sequences of holds and maneuvers. Pictured as a battle between morally coded characters, one woman fighter plays the “good girl” role while her rival tends to be “bad” and breaks the rules. Women wrestlers, known as luchadoras (fighters), often wear bright shiny leotards, black pantyhose or other provocative costumes touched by the fetish fashion. Some luchadoras use mysterious colorful masks that play an important part of the fight storyline and should evoke the images of animals, gods, ancient heroes or other archetypes, whose identity the luchadora takes on during the fight. Although the fighting is basically staged, the choreographed violence or the painful holds are not faked and may seriously harm the fighter.

Given the popularity of Lucha libre throughout all classes of the Mexican society, many wrestlers, both male and female, have reached the cult status, showing up in movies, TV shows or video games. However, almost all female Lucha libre fighters in Mexico are amateur part-time wrestlers or housewives. Passing through the dirty remote areas in the peripheries, listening to the obscene screams and insults from the mainly male audience, these no-name luchadoras fight straight on the street and charge about 10 US dollars for a show. Still, most of the young luchadoras train hard and wrestle virtually anywhere dreaming to escape from the poverty and to become a star worshipped by the modern Mexican society.

Photography by Jan Sochor
Music by Control Machete – “Artillería Pesada”; Artillería Pesada, Presenta (1999)

Photo license

Copyright © 2015 Jan Sochor. No photographs and text may be used or reproduced in any form.