BUENOS AIRES – A new exhibition at Buenos Aires" Palais de Glace museum delves into the colorful and high-flying world of Lucha Libre – the freestyle wrestling so popular in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.
In Lucha Libre, the good guys are called “tecnicos” (technicians) while the bad guys – who wear even more colorful costumes and mascara (masks) – are called “rudos” (tough guys).
Those who choose to fight unmasked are “caballera” (hair), while others wear a mask all the time – like a tattoo – until they lose that last match, the one that marks the end of their double identity as a superhero. The great luchadores (freestyle wrestlers) often pass on their superhero identities to their descendants.
This was the case with El Santo – the Saint – Mexico’s most famous luchadore. El Santo, whose career spanned from 1942 to 1984 and who starred in 52 films, was a legend in Mexican Lucha Libre. His son carries on the legend under the name “El Hijo del Santo” (the Son of the Saint). Blue Demon Jr., the son of another Mexican legend, Blue Demon, one of El Santo’s historic adversaries, also carries on his father’s legacy.
The cheers are as ecstatic, noisy and frenzied as those of a soccer match, but the world of Mexican Lucha Libre has its own codes, its very authentic and bombastic aesthetics, terminology and icons. And much of this universe can be explored at the exhibition in Buenos Aires' Palais de Glace museum.
The Lucha Libre subculture lives on
Pablo Martin, the curator of the exhibit, and its producer Florencia Fernández Frank, collected works of Argentinian designers and artists with different artistic approaches to Lucha Libre.
One of the artists, Argentinian designer Jorge Alderete, recalls: “When I moved to Mexico City in 1998, I was shocked. For me, Lucha Libre represented nostalgia, childhood, Martín Karadagian (a famous Argentinian actor/wrestler from the 60s), but in Mexico, it is surprisingly alive and present. So I approached it with the eyes of a foreigner, a tourist, without any prejudice, although there was still a certain stigma because it is linked to an entertainment for the lower classes.”
Today Lucha Libre has become a highly lucrative industry, with sponsors, professional arenas and organized tours for foreign visitors – and it continues to be a reservoir of inspiration for designers. “When art evokes the fantastic world of Lucha Libre, it recognizes its aesthetics, tradition, mysticism, moods and atmosphere,” says Oscar Jiménez Ruiz, a Mexican researcher. This subculture continues to live on today, he says, through Japanese anime among other things.