While the Mexican bicentennial stirs up memories of Mexican pop culture past and present, few icons scream out Mexican louder than a lucha libre mask. In recent years, however, Mexican wrestling masks have crossed over and been adopted as a branding gimmick by plenty of musicians and DJ’s—most of them non-Mexicans—at risk of asphyxiation, dehydration and a considerable loss in groupie appeal (except for the random mask fetishists).
From Tennessee rockabilly legends Los Straitjackets to Fabulosos Cadillacs‘ bassist Sr. Flavio; hip-hop turntablist Kutmasta Kurt to British techno DJ Men in Mask (pretty obvious name choice, right?); and Texan dubstep producer Mexicans With Guns to, err, myself; adopting a luchador mask for their on-stage persona has proved successful for many.
The artists’ music may have very little to do with actual wrestling and a lot more to do with cult, b-class Mexploitation movies from the ’70s and their kitsch aesthetics.
So for all of you who are intrigued and want to, hm, unmask the roots of this fashion phenomenon, here’s a brief introduction to the main luchadores who helped popularize these lycra disguises, courtesy of a non-Mexican mask-wearing DJ.
This guy was el mero-mero of masked wrestling and he’s the one to blame for the kick start of the lucha libre boom in Mexican cinema, having appeared in 52 movies between 1952 and 1982. There’s an infinite list of merchandising with his name, including comic books, toys and cartoon series. New York Latin ska artist King Chango dedicated his second album to him.
The second biggest icon in lucha libre, both in the ring and on the screen. He appeared in over 25 cult films, many of them in tag-team with El Santo. His signature blue and white mask is arguably the most recognizable icon of the sport. His son, Blue Demon Jr. made his film debut a couple of years ago in Mil Mascaras Vs. The Astec Mummy, the first actual luchador movie done in English. He also has his own energy drink.
Along with Santo and Demon, Mil Mascaras is considered on of the big three of Mexican wrestling history. His mask however is not so well known—he doesn’t have just one, but a thousand different ones. Still, he was also able to star in some of the best and more beloved (and bizarre) luchador movies.