I’m spending today sharing some background on Luchador, my new book about a young man’s search for identity in Mexico City’s lucha libre circuit, and this story from The New Yorker is a great place to start.
Written by William Finnegan (no relation), the talented writer behind last year’s on-every-top-ten-list Barbarian Days, the story focuses on the luchador Cassandro, arguably the best known of lucha lire’s exóticos. (I am still OMG’ing from Cassandro following my Twitter. I mean, I’m a fan, and I was in the audience that night at Lucha VaVoom described by Finnegan in this piece.)
Exóticos are luchadores—most of them gay—who wrestle as a sort of drag act within lucha. They wrestle mano-a-mano with the pumped-up luchadores of this macho culture, but they are also subject to derogatory taunts from the crowd, and often expected to play their characters using dated and, some argue, problematic stereotypes. They’ve also been credited with playing an important role in a Mexico’s equality movement, and drawing an enthusiastic LGBTQ audience to lucha libre. It’s a fascinating dichotomy, and an absolutely great read.
The conflict is also at the heart of Luchador. The protagonist, Gabriel, trains to join the lucha libre circuit under the mentorship of Miguel, a famed, old school exótico luchador known as La Rosa. For Gabriel, who is gay and out, it’s a chance to wrestle without stepping into the closet. But it’s also not a clean fit, and Gabriel looks to challenge the norms of what it means to be a gay luchador.