Monday, September 19, 2011

Mexican Wrestling aka Lucha Libre

Today I will start with a little bit of history...

In the early 1900s, professional wrestling was mostly a regional phenomenon in Mexico until Salvador Lutteroth founded the Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre (Mexican Wrestling Enterprise) in 1933, giving the sport a national foothold for the first time. The promotion company flourished and quickly became the premier spot for wrestlers. As television surfaced as a viable entertainment medium during the 1950s, Lutteroth was then able to broadcast his wrestling across the nation, subsequently yielding a popularity explosion for the sport. Moreover, it was the emergence of television that allowed Lutteroth to promote lucha libre’s first breakout superstar into a national pop-culture phenomenon.

In 1942, lucha libre would be forever changed when a silver-masked wrestler, known simply as El Santo (The Saint), first stepped into the ring. He made his debut in Mexico City by winning an 8-man battle royal. The public became enamored by the mystique and secrecy of Santo's personality, and he quickly became the most popular luchador in Mexico. His wrestling career spanned nearly five decades, during which he became a folk hero and a symbol of justice for the common man through his appearances in comic books and movies, while the sport received an unparalleled degree of mainstream attention.

Luchadores are traditionally more agile and perform more aerial maneuvers than professional wrestlers in the US who more often rely on power and hard strikes to subdue their opponents. The difference in styles is due to the independent evolution of the sport in Mexico beginning in the 1930s and the fact that luchadores in the cruiserweight division (peso semicompleto) are often the most popular wrestlers in Mexican lucha libre. Luchadores execute characteristic high flying attacks by using the wrestling ring's ropes to catapult themselves towards their opponents, using intricate combinations in rapid-fire succession, and applying complex submission holds.

Popular luchadores are always heroes admired by the fans. They may represent Aztec warriors, Christian saints or comic book superheroes, but they always fight for the common man -- workers, farmers and the poor. They are known as técnicos. The villains of Mexican wrestling, called rudos, represent very real problems faced by Mexicans -- corrupt politicians, crooked police officers and drug dealers.

Masks (máscaras) have been used dating back to the beginnings of lucha libre in the early part of the 20th century, and have a historical significance to Mexico in general, dating to the days of the Aztecs. Early masks were very simple with basic colors to distinguish the wrestler. 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. 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.

A few weeks ago I had my chance at shooting something that I had never shot before but I was dying to, I am obviously talking about: Mexican Wrestling! As you may know, it is a very popular "sport" -if you will- in Mexico, which has recently gained a lot of popularity all over the world. It is now an important part of the pop culture in Mexico that has been, little by little, reaching the world.

Personally, I had never been to the Arena México (the main wrestling venue in Mexico) aka The Catedral (given its importance) and I had a great time shooting though at the beginning it wasn't easy due to all the moves and maneuvers I mentioned before; you have to be very quick and adjust your timing to the wrestlers', which I did after the first few shots; on ships, I used to be a fast shooter, turns out...I still am. Sometimes (or most of the time, actually) timing is everything in a photograph, well, this would be a perfect case to illustrate how important timing is! In general, I am very happy with the results as the timing was good enough to catch a lot of those "flying" maneuvers, which in photographs is even better because it looks as if you froze them up in the air. Enjoy and if you ever have the chance to go to the Lucha Libre, don't miss out on it!

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