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Fun with Lucha Libre's Esoteric Side

In my previous Trickster's Realm, I mentioned two masked Mexican wrestlers -- Renegado and Mr. Tempest -- who visited an image of the Virgin Mary at the Las Palmas restaurant in Calexico, California.

I know nothing of wrestling, whether it's from the United States, Mexico, or elsewhere. My experience with wrestling is scant: memories of my girlfriend in elementary school; her father was always watching wrestling on television. I remember Gorgeous George as a cultural icon. And the film The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke, was very good. That's my experience with wrestling.

I was intrigued by the Mexican wrestlers mentioned in the article. First of all, why masks? For Lucha Libre ("free wrestling") aficionados, my brief exploration may seem both quaint as well as scant; but I'm a novice. In Lucha Libre, the masks share their roots in Aztec culture:

In modern lucha libre, masks are colorfully designed to evoke the images of animals, gods, ancient heroes, and other archetypes, whose identity the luchador takes on during a performance.

In the ring, the mask is very important of course:

The mask is considered "sacred" to a degree, so much so that fully removing an opponent's mask during a match is grounds for disqualification.

Outside of the ring, the mask is equally sacred. Lucha Libre wrestlers often wear their masks in public when they're not wrestling. Their personas, be it a god, animal, etc. is maintained at all times, in and out of the ring, coming up against the dominant culture.

These masks, from what I gather in my brief journey into this world, have become much more than just gimmicky items:

More recently, the masks that luchadores wear have become iconic symbols of Mexican culture. Contemporary artists like Francisco Delgado and Xavier Garza incorporate wrestler masks in their paintings.

(Not all Mexican wrestlers wear masks however, and some who have lost their masks choose not to wear one again while wrestling; which is an entire subject on its own involving matches to regain respect, or make bets using their masks.)

The Jack Black movie Nacho Libre was loosely based on the life of mexican wrestler and Catholic priest Fray Tormenta, who wrestled to earn money for his orphanage. The Virgin of Guadalupe is inspiration both for Lucha Libre wresters as well as artists, and both have combined the sacredness of the mask and the sacredness of the Blessed Mother into one. One such example is this painting to the right, created by painter Alma López.

Mexican wrestlers have long been involved in movies; a few with nods towards esoterica include Mistero en las Bermudas, a 1979 film with famous Lucha Libre wrestlers Santo and Blue Demon, and Anonimo Mortal starring Santo, involves fighting off Nazis, and Santos vs. Los Lobas, in which Santos fights off werewolves and other evil creatures.

By the way, my wrestling name is La Tigresa Suprema, thanks to the Lucha Libre wrestling name generator. Esoterically accurate, as my favorite animal is the tiger!


Wikipedia: Lucha Libre Masks