The Mask Makes the Man

I have stumbled upon many of my passions by looking into topics that will interest my students, only to end up more invested in them myself.  Just ask my son.  We spent several weeks one summer riding buses and trains from the Kenai Peninsula past the Arctic Circle after I developed a standards based unit on Alaska and the Iditarod.  One summer I drug him across the western United States following the same route Sal and her grandparents took in Sharon Creech’s novel, Walk Two Moons.  I even cried, just like Gram, when Old Faithful erupted.  On a trip to Gettysburg and Philadelphia, I most likely bought more souvenirs, ahem,  “for my classroom” than for him.

A couple of weeks ago, while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, an advertisement for a Lucha Libre match in Guaymas popped up on one of the news sites I follow.  I knew a little bit about Lucha Libre from a blog article written for Spanish teachers that I had read a year or so ago.  It had looked like a great way to engage students in Mexican culture- – something a little bit different than soccer or baseball.  Unfortunately, I never got around to creating the unit for my kindergarteners before we moved.  There most definitely would have been stretchy bodysuits, acrobatics, and yelling involved, so it was probably for the best anyway.  Principals tend to frown on that sort of stuff.

Lucha Libre (free fighting) originated in the early 1900’s during the days of the Mexican Revolution.  These were no holds barred, hand-to-hand battles whose sole purpose was to distract the audience from the realities of war (with fighting, go figure).  The sport evolved in in the late 1920’s when Salvador González, a Mexican businessman, traveled to the U.S.A. and was captivated by the sport of professional wrestling.  Well, the sport and the outlandish personalities of the wrestlers.  He brought the idea back to Mexico, and with his partner, Francisco Ahumada, founded Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre in Mexico City.  They were selling out their 5,000 seat arena every time, within the first year!  The rest, they say, is history.  Now called Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, it is the longest running professional sports promotion company in the world.

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Lucha Libre masks for sale at a local souvenir shop

There are two main differences between American wrestling and Lucha Libre.  The first is that luchadores (fighters) in the lighter weight class are the most popular in Mexico.  They are much more agile than American wrestlers.  Therefore, matches are centered on highflying aerobatics that boost a wrestler’s power as he catapults himself from the ropes.  The pace of a lighter weight class match is frantic, even dizzying.  The second major difference is that all Lucha Libre wrestlers wear masks (máscaras), protecting their identities from one another and the audience.  This aspect of the sport is taken very seriously.  A wrestler can be disqualified if he removes the mask of an opponent during a match.  Many luchadores even wear their masks in public.  El Santo, the most popular luchador of all time, was buried in his.

And here I was with the opportunity to see the real deal.  One night after dinner, I casually mentioned to Steve that there was a Lucha Libre match in Guaymas on October 17.  He looked at me like I had two heads.  Then he proceeded to break my heart by telling me that date was no good for him.  There was a big audit going on at work, and he had to focus on that.  He would be entertaining visitors on that night anyway.  He was not at all amused when I suggested we entertain them together at the Lucha Libre match.  Apparently, he did not think I was taking this audit seriously enough.

By the time I found a friend willing to go with me, the ad had disappeared from Facebook, replaced with one for some famous clown who would be appearing in November.  No worries.  After a little detective work, I am now following Lucha Libre Triple A en Guaymas and will be among the first to know when tickets for the next match go on sale.  Plus, I have time to choose a favorite luchador, find and buy his mask, and improve my Spanish trash talk- – which I am told is just as important as the match itself.

Author: acstrine

Amy is a former elementary school teacher, currently living "Over the Border" with her husband. She loves reading, traveling, and learning through new experiences. While she would be incredibly flattered if you choose to share her articles, she asks that her name is kindly included as the author.  

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