x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Is lucha libre really a family show?

Mexico City's Arena México stadium was awash with children as the masked wrestlers, with names to make your blood curdle - Mephisto, Mistico, Molotov - theatrically brawled and somersaulted until collapsing onto the ring floor, writhing in seeming agony.

This week, I went to my first lucha libre. Masked wrestlers, with names to make your blood curdle - Mephisto, Mistico, Molotov - theatrically thumped, brawled and somersaulted until collapsing onto the ring floor, writhing in seeming agony. In the cracks between fights, go-go girls in bikinis gyrated meaninglessly around, also appearing in seeming agony. There were even dwarfs doing tumbling tricks. And a braying, bloodthirsty crowd.

This might sound like adults-only entertainment. But Mexico City's Arena México stadium was awash with children, some wearing colourful masks matching the fighter they supported. But I'd left the twins behind. I didn't think a bare-fisted wrestling match, beginning late at night, was an appropriate place to take two eight-year-olds. I also thought - incorrectly, as the crowds of diminutive fans proved - that they'd be the only members of the audience too young to hold a driving licence.

I've made mistakes like this before. Staying in Galway, Ireland, we were invited to the greyhound races. Again, I thought I ought to leave the twins in front of the TV, probably watching something more violent than lucha libre. So I hired a babysitter and arrived to find it packed with kids younger than my own, gambling around the edge of the track. We believe - or perhaps, I believe - we venture into other cultures to experience new ways of seeing the world. And we hope travel will teach the same to our kids. We ask them to listen and learn - not stare and judge. But I don't think understanding something is the same as accepting it. I can't extend an anything-goes attitude to what I let my kids see and do. I just can't help thinking that they shouldn't witness certain activities.

I know other parents are more open-minded. When in Rome, or Galway, or Mexico City, they do as the natives do, and so do their kids. They'd tell them not to condemn unfamiliar customs. "Everyone's different," they'd say. "We just need to see it from their point of view." But doesn't there come a point when it becomes unacceptable? It's just difficult to know exactly where that point is. Eight-year-old River was furious that I'd seen Mistico without him. As compensation, I bought him a toy ring to play with, complete with mini plastic fighters. So now he spends every morning bashing his wrestlers against each other. And I've promised the next time we're in Mexico, to take him to lucha libre. Maybe.

Dea Birkett travelled to Mexico with Journey Latin America (www.journeylatinamerica.com). Do you have family travel tips that you'd like to share? E-mail Dea at dbirkett@thenational.ae