Lucha libre is Mexico’s version of what we in the United States refer to as pro wrestling. Its dates to 1863, when a Mexican wrestler named Enrique Ugartechea developed a form of “freestyle” wrestling that was based on Greco-Roman wrestling. Lucha libre began to soar in popularity in Mexico after two Italian businessmen started promoting fights in the early 1900s. It has since become popular around the globe. The sport is mostly performed by men, called “luchadores,” festooned in colorful outfits and masks. But women also take part in the sport, and they are called “luchadoras.” Fascinated by the sport, and particularly with the female participants, Italian photographer Diana Bagnoli traveled to Mexico.
To find her subjects, Bagnoli turned to the Internet. She first started with the official lucha libre association, called CMLL (Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre). The CMLL is the main company promoting matches. Bagnoli didn’t have much luck there, but she met more people as she researched the sport, found an independent circuit and made inroads there. She became good friends with some of the women working in the independent circuit and thus began her project.
Most of the women with whom Bagnoli spent time lived in the suburbs of Mexico City. Bagnoli found that the lives of these women could be difficult. She says a lot of them were grandmothers in their 30s and were all working hard to provide for their families. Many of the women’s main concerns were to fight for equality, both inside and outside of the ring, and to provide a good example for their children and grandchildren. But, Bagnoli told In Sight, “Unfortunately, this is not common now in Mexican society, where macho culture is all pervasive and they are experiencing a higher rate of violence against women.”