La Zona 23, wrestling with Mexican sauce

At the start of the year, on a Sunday afternoon, we met at a car scrapyard in Tultitlán, a municipality in the State of Mexico. This dusty, dirty, entirely concreted area is located about thirty kilometers north of the capital. Here, the appearance of a tree is a luxury. But no one is looking for a haven of peace there, no one comes to recharge their batteries in nature. Quite the contrary: what spectators want to see is two men (or two women) hitting each other with windshields or neon lights, sticking staples in each other’s foreheads or smashing their faces against the trunks of old cars .

The audience is made up of equal parts men and women, and we see a few foreigners. Everyone gets their money’s worth: blood spurts, pieces of glass make real cuts. They all paid 250 pesos (around 14 euros) to witness the pain of the wrestlers, to be as close as possible to the truth. Seeing someone suffer is part of their program this Sunday. Something so normal, so not clandestine, that couples even come with their children.

A “drinking zone” where everything is true

For eight years, Zona 23 has offered a variation of the lucha libre (or Mexican wrestling) where everything becomes permitted. Far from traditional venues like the Arena México or the Coliseo, the proposition is simple: take the blows and the possibility of injury to the extreme.

“I have always been a fan of lucha libre”, assures Juan Carlos, a spectator of the show, while holding a glass of beer. He smiles, looking moved. “Since childhood, I watched wrestling matches on Saturdays and Sundays on television, and for years I went to the Arena México. But after a while it gets boring, right? It’s too choreographed, there’s too much spectacle, too much chicanery. A friend told me there was Zona 23 and he brought me here a few months ago.”

“I loved it because it’s real. There’s blood, they’re really punching each other! We all come here because we are looking for something more, strong emotions.”

Zona 23 owes its name to a code used by the Mexico State Police to designate an individual who is drunk or drugged. So much so that it is literally a drinking areaa place to uninhibit yourself.

Abel Guerrero is the founder and promoter of this space. The first session took place on July 10, 2016, although Guerrero began renting the auto junkyard as a stage last November 20. As his family runs a tow truck business, every time there is a session he asks his relatives for help to move the old vehicles and clear the fight zone.

“As such, the concept of lucha libre extreme already exists in Mexico as well as in the United States (with the catch variation hardcore), recalls Guerrero. But we wanted to give it a special character, for the fights to take place in the middle of a junkyard and for the cars themselves to be used as props.”

No trips to the emergency room yet

The car scrapyard is located on López Portillo Avenue, a few steps from the Ciudad Labor stop of the Mexibús (Mexico State bus network), and from Monday to Saturday it operates normally: they sell spare parts there, dismantle vehicles. But on fight Sundays, a rental ring is set up in the main courtyard, with a sound system. Refreshments sell beer or sodas, food stalls offer

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