While checking out the town of Tegueste, we noticed a sign advertising a wrestling bout. Lucha Canaria is a unique sporting event, practiced only on the Canary Islands, so we decided to check it out. What better way to spend our afternoon, than watching beefy guys in singlets toss each other around?
At 6pm, we headed over to the Terrero Insular Mencey Tegueste, and paid €6 apiece for entrance. Lucha Canaria is practiced in a circular sand ring, and most towns have their own arena, or Terrero, dedicated to the sport. There was a strong crowd on hand, along with television cameras, and this surprised us. It’s tempting to believe that, when you haven’t heard of something, it’s because nobody has heard of this, so it was jarring to see the popularity of Lucha Cnaria. We grabbed seats, and sat back to try and figure the game out.
Lucha Canaria seems to be a mix between wrestling and sumo. The idea is to knock down your opponent, causing any part of their body (besides their feet) to touch the sand. There’s a lot of grappling, throwing, and shoving, and the most important skill is balance. Well, balance and beefiness. Once a wrestler falls twice, he or she loses, and the next match gets underway. Each squad is comprised of twelve wresters, and the bout ends once all wrestlers on one team have been eliminated.
The match we witnessed went down to the wire; Tegueste seemed to be losing badly, but that’s because it saved its big guns for the end. I’ve never been into wrestling, but this was fairly thrilling; some of the matches were boring (and wrestlers would be penalized if they don’t make an effort), but most of them were great fun to watch, and the close score raised the stakes and tension. After an especially thrilling victory, the winner would jog around the crowd and collect small tips from his fans.
The crowd exploded in delight when Tegueste closed the match out victoriously, and we headed back out into the evening air with an energized group. It’s questionable whether I’ll ever see another match of Lucha Canaria, but if I lived here, it’s something I could see myself getting into.