Looking for a genuine Canary Islands experience, one to go home and brag about, sure that none of your mates have done the same? May I suggest Lucha Canaria (Canarian Wrestling)? This sport never makes the island’s English press but its following locally is huge – and vociferous.
I’d seen it on TV and been a bit nonplussed. Dare I say, it even looked boring. That was until I was cajoled into going to watch a young friend who had just taken up the sport and came away hoarse and on a high from the excitement.
When the Conquistadors arrived on Tenerife they found the Guanche practising a form of the sport. The Guanche having arrived at an unknown point from Africa, and given the popularity of wrestling in West Africa, it wasn’t surprising.
I entered the stadium the first night cautiously. I’d presumed a very macho night, but there were all the young girls of the village of Cabo Blanco in Arona, dressed to kill; well where else would you find a beau on a Friday night? We settled ourselves into the bleachers, concrete seating, which was the same throughout the circular stadium and it has to be said, not that comfy (best advice take a sweater or jacket just to sit on). Comfort aside, the atmosphere was electric. None of the slick razzmatazz associated with modern sports, but there was a buzz culminating in a cacophony of yells and whistles as the teams entered the sawdust arena and were introduced one by one – cue the beginnings of the sore throat.
Crouching shoulder to shoulder the first protagonists glared at each other, grabbed a leg of their opponent’s shorts and battled it out. As soon as two falls are achieved the bout is over, but each participant has to lose three times to be out of the running, so excitement runs high as teams dwindle. Beers and chips arrived from the hole-in-the-wall bar, the wall of sound rose as metal was banged – no idea from where it came – and friendly insults were yelled at the opposing team. I was glad to be with the home team. It was, quite simply, an exhausting and exhilarating experience just to be a spectator. It was perhaps the way sport used to be before it was taken over by big corporations. Certainly it was more fun than WWF!
Sport aside, it was great to share a truly local experience. If you visit local villages like San Miguel or Granadilla de Abona, you will see how the stadiums of Lucha Canaria stand in pride of place. So much of aboriginal culture was lost after the Conquest, but wrestling seems to be as strong now as ever, and for a €5 entry fee, it’s certainly much cheaper than following the local soccer team.
The season is now drawing to a close, but if you are planning a winter vacation ask your concierge where to find a match. I found folk very friendly and eager to explain the finer points to me, and delighted that, as a foreigner I was interested. You won’t find stadia in Costa Adeje or Los Cristianos, but in local villages which are only twenty minutes or so by car, and I can promise it will be a night to remember.
Category : about tenerife
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