The truth behind the honour
Jorge Armando Ibarra Ricalde
“They will fight two to three falls, no time limit.” Silence reigns only for a moment before the man at the microphone builds the mood with nothing but neat, finely articulated words. “In this corner, the servant of the well-dressed Grim Reaper, the gravedigger of challengers, the pride of his native Tangamandapio; the Achichincle de la Catrina (“Minion of the dead”).” The public explodes. There is no way to silence them. So, taking advantage of the moment to create the dichotomy of the universe, they will instinctively shut up because they need to hear what follows; “In this other one, the rude, the rudest, son of the Devil, Prince of cheats; the Vermin Carrales.” The boos are mixed with the insults. At the moment the sound prevails in the arena. The shrill screams are necessary for the fighters to know what they are risking. People came for masks against scalp. But these two are here, risking their lives. This is no exaggeration. When Don Justo “el Viejo” Justiniano approaches with his striped shirt, wrinkled face, and a firm hand to start the fight, the whole world doubts that the combat is real; they know the truth. The Vermin’s open hand hits the Achichincle’s face. Although the rudos (“tough ones”) man pushes him to give him a recovery time before the blow that follows, it is not enough for the masked man not to feel his skin burning. The blow that takes him to the canvas hurts more than the fall, thanks to the fact that the staff made sure that the ring was in a position to withstand the brawl. The stomp is not all the way down, but one of the three still hurts his beer scar which is his pouch. After a brief celebration received with equal contempt and admiration, Vermin lifts a hundred and forty kilos of muscle and fat man by his head, who helps him because the other option would be more painful. The Achichincle spends five seconds standing up, “confused” while the Vermin bounces between the ropes. He’s not sure where the blow came from, but when he feels the forearm on his neck, he returns to the ground only for another rinse cycle in the world’s most violent washing machine. The Vermin runs from rope to rope and at the last moment, the Achichincle catches him to spin him around and cracks him on his knee. For the commentators, they are two athletes giving a show. For the cynics in the front row, they are two actors performing a choreography, but for the public that does not judge but enjoys, they are two heroes locked to death, and the count one-two-three, declares the Vermin as the winner of the first drop. Re-match: The Achichincle bounces off his opponent and receives him with the fly kick. People scream as the gladiators locked in combat ignore the three rudos who emerge from locker rooms to hold the technician while the Vermin finishes him off. Don Justiniano is distracted, confused between the claims of the children who denounce the black hand (a claim that he was cheating), so the ruffians hit the masked man, fleeing when the rudos man puts him flat on his back. Don Justo counts to two when the Achichincle rises again to the trap, prouder he defends himself from four until his compadre (mate), the Dragon Macías appears from the first row to wallow with the ruffians, and discovering the deception, the old referee with a key expels another offender from the sacred arena.
The Achichincle is not one of those fighters who does acrobatics, but everyone screams when he does the drunken punch, a move that ends with a tackle that gives him victory on the count of three. But everyone remembers that they are two out of three falls. The drama is felt. Achichincle’s wife discreetly sends him encouragement from the stands, his compadre comforts him while the Vermin in his corner receives a visit from Mister Axkana, that guerro (“blondie”), who pays for everything, always smiles and who everyone has for the devil. So much so that despite the boos, he walks around happily reminding Vermin Carrales of his arrangement.
The promotions said that the Vermin would give his soul to the chamuco (the devil) for winning Achichincle´s mask. The irony is that even though he only needs to win this fall, after a few exchanges of technique, sweat, and blood, the inevitable time comes to show his worth. After being stopped by the thunderous kick that sets off the alarms of all the cars parked outside, the Achichincle agilely climbs over the third rope, making peace with God, the Destiny, or whatever lurks behind him, launching himself in a spectacular maneuver. In the air, the hearts of the public stop while the party is born and the tradition endures, the Achichincle stops being an athlete or a choreographer and becomes the incarnation of heroism; madness, and bravery. The children learn what it means to be speechless, and those in the front row open their jaws in astonishment at the feat that cannot be rehearsed. There in the air, Don Justiniano remembers why he cannot retire despite his grey hair and years. Only the most unhappy would be unaware of the apparent feat; knowing that the Vermin would win, were it not for the honour of accepting his mate to share the painful burden; the arena explodes because they are living the wrestling! Viva la lucha libre!
Jorge Armando Ibarra Ricalde (Mexico), a.k.a El Master, is a writer, chronicler, professional master and role-playing game researcher as well as a designer of the game processes, specialized in direct cultural transmission through orality.