The Pumas initiation is first of all a ceremony, a harsh ritual, a test of courage, a cult of pain with which football is played, a frantic song that lets out a bitter laugh, it is the most expensive ticket to enter the classic POLYTECHNIC-UNIVERSITY.

Omar Ureña, Tatuaje para el alma, 1995 

It is a tattoo for the soul, an invocation to ancient times, where the only University of Mexico team that could be called PUMAS was the football team, all the others were Bears, or were they Cubs? What difference does it make? In this way, the tragicomedy, which has been performed since 1936 by the Authentic Pumas, is a disguised curtain formed by springs of cold water and hazy light at seven in the morning. A group of veterans are the spectators, who watch the naked freshmen. The freshman is greeted with a board that crashes into his chest. Those summoned to the university team are jogging naked on the frosty grass. The spirits of the squad appear when they draw words from their hoarse and damaged chests: “Oh, you cabrón! It’s about balls!” Some students “onlookers” only wonder: “What’s up with those guys? They look funny.” It is the first part of the initiation: diverse races to show their skills. Springs of cold water rain down on the players all morning. There is also fraternity: “Órale, eat these chocolates for the cold!”.

Second part of the act. It’s barely nine o’clock and now they have to go outside the football warehouses. The freshmen, looking incredulous and feeling stupid, crawl on the stones of the clay floor, there are scratches. The incongruous ritual continues: the freshmen roar and crawl, resting their knuckles and knees on a volcanic stone fence, representing a cougar walking on the boreal forest. Here it is not the snow forest but still these pumas shiver from cold when they are soaked on the ground. Some show angry faces: “Hold on, dude! Don’t freak out!” The cheer is unanimous, vehement: “Fuck the ‘capitán’…the ‘capitán’!” The freshmen continue to compete. It is not convenient to lose because there are more paddle hits. It is the law where the strongest survive. There are those who are helped with alcohol: “Ah, cool brother!”. One by one they are blindfolded and led on a tour by the hand, while the echo of blows is heard on some metal drums. A suspense moment is created. He cautiously approaches to the next part. The freshman, as if he were a real cougar, is forced to bite a defenseless prey. He rips off a frog’s head and spits it out. They gather the freshmen in a corner – with their limbs shrunken by the cold but yes, as they would say “with their balls well laid” – while a “P” is drawn on their chests with a twig: “What, Is it done? Fuck no! it’s until it bleeds!, Chále!”.

It is the third part. It’s the easiest thing, it’s the sun, pool, hot water, trampolines. It is the visual contact with the outside, with the university students who walk in front of the School of Architecture as if nothing was happening. Act four, is already three o’clock, makeup time. Peroxide on the player’s head. Now he is a blonde symbolizing the golden hair of a cougar. The Puma hazing is humiliation and ridicule. Yes. But it is also pride – for those who know – it is to be a superhero, to be a “machín” like Huracán Ramirez or like Superman. Players are smeared with oil paint, take on those popular superhero personalities, and are crammed into an R-100 bus. The hazing is a surreal vision of a city bus with eco-friendly landscaping, crammed with blonde characters and superheroes, heading towards the Zona Rosa. It is an impressive performance, the Riddler, in the company of the Hooligan and Aquaman, get off the bus to direct a “goya” cheer at a traffic light on Insurgentes Avenue. The afternoon passes and night falls while these strange beings wander around the “Yuppie’s Bar” requesting money: “Oh, guess what? I think I just gave my dough to the Magna Sin Tank and the Mighty Mouse”.

Part five. The end comes. Nobody can back down. The freshmen arrived on their own to Ciudad Universitaria. It is around eleven at night. The metal containers, making themselves heard like drums heralding a sacrifice, announce the hieratic tradition: the ‘Puma Oath’. The freshmen players are there, lined up, listening as, despite the eternal and loud thumping of the drums, the bellowing ululations escape. They wonder why they are there. There is no time for answers. “Who’s Next!”. The freshman is led by the arm, blindfolded, down a corridor. The thumping of the drums can be heard increasingly loud. The freshman takes off his shorts and is laid face down. While he bites a rag to resist, two seniors, one lying on the player’s knees and another on his back hold him, exposing his buttocks. Tlaz, tlaz! A rush of lacerating flip-flops are dropped for a long thirty seconds period. It is a small ordeal where deafening drums and incessant flip-flops stun the young feline, making him roar wildly. “Hold on, it’s almost over!” They speak to his ear. That’s it. Later, kneeling on a jersey and with his hands resting on a ball and a golden helmet, he swears in to defend the colors of the University.

Omar Ureña, Xiuhtecuhtli # 1 (Johnny Storm radiando el fuego celestial), 1995 

All this was undoubtedly an immaculate conception of new brothers, because by “staining” themselves with them, they conceptualized honor. It was the emergence, the invariably painful and symbolic birth of a PUMA.


December 1993

Follow Omar Ureña on Twitter: @omarurena_

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