Wrestling with saints

In Britain we had The Saint, but Mexico had El Santo.

In the early 1940s, Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta established himself as a professional wrestler. By the 1950s, thanks to television, he was a household name . The allure of his silver mask must have added to his enviable physical skill.
Wrestling was one of the first sports in Mexico to be popularised by TV and this undoubtedly helped make El Santo into something of a legend. His wrestling career lasted for almost fifty years and he also appeared in over fifty movies and featured in various comics. His prowess in the wrestling ring was matched in the bedroom – he fathered ten children.

Lucha libre means "free wrestling" or free fighting and the Mexican style is supremely theatrical. I've witnessed the Mexican love of spectacle, so it is not hard to see why the sport took off here and why their wrestling heroes have become such a source of  pride internationally.  I love the fact that Mexican wrestling is characterised by their masks  - lending an air of mystery to this spectator sport.

El Santo was a luchador and his mystique was no exception. He was a true performer who lived by unspoken rules. Apparently, he only ever publicly removed his mask once, on a TV show, just before his death in February 1984.

To be honest, I’ve always thought of wrestling as an overrated, macho sport, and for many years I did not realise that the moves were carefully choreographed. I had presumed it was just more senseless violence for public consumption.

I am not sure what has shifted in my perception, but I have enjoyed learning a little more about this particular folk hero. In the 60s and 70s, Jaime’s grandfather edited many of the wrestling movies in which El Santo fulfilled and sustained his reputation. He's an appropriate rival to Leslie Charteris’s popular fictional detective. Both had a penchant for disguise. I guess, the appeal is that El Santo’s skills as a wrestler aren’t so dissimilar from the craft of an actor.