If you stopped by Google yesterday, you saw that the Google Doodle was a stylized luchador’s mask. But it’s not just any mask. It’s the mask of El Santo, The Saint, the legendary técnico whose career spanned both the ring and the screen, and who was famously buried wearing his iconic silver mask.
Today would have been Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta’s 99th birthday, but most people didn’t know him by that name. To fans of the genre, he was simply, El Santo.
El Santo is the classic técnico, the hero in lucha libre’s morality plays of good versus evil. His wrestling days spanned nearly five decades, and he was famously paired both against and with the Blue Demon in the ring, on film, and in comic books.
But El Santo ultimately became much more than a wrestler or a movie star. He became a folk hero and a symbol of justice, facing down powerful villain.
And his presence is felt to this day. His mask, along with that of The Blue Demon, are the classic imagery of historic lucha libre. His image can be found in memes, on beverage bottles, even on fabric (Yes, I just bought this skirt.) If you’re lucky enough to be in Los Angeles and catch a Lucha Va Voom burlesque show, El Santo’s image is omnipresent, with video clips running on screens before and between acts.
To some, El Santo’s image has become the source of kitsch, but El Santo remains the barometer upon which great técnicos are measured, and his influence runs through my new book, Luchador:
Gabriel spent weeks working with Miguel fine-tuning his character, his look, his costumes. He shadowed Miguel. He accompanied him to the wrestling suppliers, to the designer’s studio, to the fabric shop.
In the car, they would talk of strategy and of show, of the masters of lucha libra, and why they were so beloved decades after their careers had ended. El Santo’s path may have led him from the ring to B-grade movies, but he was still beloved by fans as lucha libre’s greatest técnico long after the day when he was buried wearing his silver mask.
It takes something special, Miguel would remind him: a character story that resonates with fans, a style unlike other luchadores. People needed something, or someone, to cheer for.
“And I can do that as a rudo?” Gabriel asked.
“You can do that as anyone. You just need to be compelling.”