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History of the Luchador Mask
A Luchador From Parts Unknown
Luchador From Parts Unknown
I am a luchador from parts unknown. Not really, but I do own a luchador mask and a $5 poncho. For the longest time I have had a fascination with the Lucha Libre culture. In particular I was drawn to the mystique of the Mexican wresting masks worn by many luchadores.
Before we get into the significance of the mask it would be good to get a brief historical overview of Lucha Libre.
Historical Overview of Lucha Libre
Lucha Libre is a Spanish term when translated into English literally means "free fight". Even though the term was initially used to describe amateur free style wrestling it evolved into what is now known as the Mexican style of professional wrestling. Lucha Libre is known for a fast pace and high flying style of wrestling.
Professional wrestling had its origins in Mexico in the early 1900s, but it had a major breakthrough in 1933 with the formation of the Empresa Mexicana de la Lucha Libre (which has since changed its name to Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL)). Since that time not only has Lucha Libre become an important part of Mexican culture, but elements of Lucha Libre also went on to influence the development of North American and Japanese pro wrestling.
An important element of Lucha Libre is the wrestling mask. We will now examine the significance of the luchador mask.
Importance of the Luchador Mask
Even though there have been many successful mask less luchadores, the luchador mask is a key element of the Lucha Libre culture. The wrestling mask has been worn since the early days of Mexican pro wrestling during the early 1900s. Historically the mask predates Lucha Libre wrestling. The masks can be traced back to the Aztecs. Just like with the Aztecs, the Lucha Libre masks symbolizes gods, animals, ancient heroes along with other well known Mexican archetypes. The luchadores that wear these masks take on these identities.
The mask becomes a badge of honor for the luchador. A luchador being stripped of his match is considered a shameful humiliation. Because of this many Lucha Libre matches revolve around the wrestler putting his mask on the line. At times this could involve mask vs. mask matches against two masks wrestler. At other times the matches can involve mask vs. hair which pits a mask luchador against an unmasked one. These matches are referred to as luchas de apuestas (which is translated as matches with wagers). In the world of Lucha Libre these matches take on an even higher profile than championship matches.
Since the masks become an important part of the luchador identity, the wearer will go great lengths to protect their identity. For example legendary luchador El Santo continued to wear his mask after retirement and he was buried wearing his famous silver wrestling mask.
Outside of wrestling, Lucha Libre and the Lucha Libre mask has had an impact on other forms of popular culture.
El Hijo De Santo vs Blue Demon Jr
El Santo vs Blue Demon in Atlantis (Video)
Lucha Libre's Impact on Pop Culture
Lucha Libre's impact on Mexican pop culture is well documented. Lucha Libre was becoming so popular in Mexico that it spawned the Lucha film genre. The first luchador film is 1952's Huracán Ramírez.
One of the premier Lucha film stars was El Santo (in English, The Saint). Already a legend in the wrestling ring, El Santo ended up starring in 52 Lucha films. He also had a popular comic book based on him in 1952. He became a popular Mexican folk hero who fought for the downtrodden and oppressed.
Lucha Libre pop culture impact has expanded beyond Mexico. For example you have the 2006 Jack Black film, Nacho Libre along with the popular animated series ¡Mucha Lucha! You also have the popular American instrumental rock band Los Straitjackets, whose members all sport personalized luchador masks.
A big part of the appeal of the mask is the mystique. That is why the luchador mask has forever become an integral part of Mexican folklore.
Via la Lucha Libre!
Nacho Libre Movie Clip (Video)
© 2012 CJ Baker