I own a Luchador Mask. It’s a replica of the mask worn by the great Mexican wrestler Rey Mysterio who has dazzled crowds for over 20 years with his high flying style and dangerous style. In the Luchador tradition, the mask is a symbol of honor and prestige, and when a masked wrestler is beaten so badly that is mask is taken from him, he is never allowed to wear it again and is shamed for the rest of his career.
My mask is one of many that Rey Mysterio wears. Black and gold with a sequined cross on the forehead that extends between the eyes. Rounded eye holes allow for ample peripheral vision as they are outlined with the same gold pattern that adorns the cross. The nose is covered, making it difficult to breathe, but the mouth is exposed similar to the mask worn by many masked superheroes such as The Batman. Two talons extend outward from the mouth, creating points that frame the chin and give the mask a more dangerous edge. The mask opens from the back, and laces up with black string to provide a secure hold on the face in order to prevent enemies from removing it. It also features a black and gold chin strip to better hold it in place.
The mask is mine, and a little piece of the real, inner me comes forth when I put it on.
In 2008, I won a discounted ticket to the Austin City Limits music festival, an outdoor landing pad for several of the top acts all over the world. Multiple stages are set up at Austin’s Zilker Park and people filter in from all over the country bound together by their love of music. In order to accommodate the festival goers and make sizable bit of coin, vendors from all across Austin set up tents and peddle their wares during the three day event. On the campground, you can get food, drinks, alcohol, and even medicine in the event of any health related issues for inflated prices of course. What I did not expect to see however was a tent for a little shop called Tesoros that sold Latin American artifacts. They sold, art, trinkets, jewelry, and antiques that carried a flair indicative to La Raza.
I stumbled in with my friend Julia. It was day 2 of the festival and festival days feel far longer the longer you’re out there. We’d seen band after band since the day before, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, N*E*R*D, Bavu Blakes, and even Brazilian rock outfit CSS. And Austin is so hot. Even in October. With those water and food prices, I spent most of my days hungry and angry about it, though there was still plenty of fun to be had. Still, by the evening of day 2, I was exhausted, and since this was my first ever festival I had no idea how to pace myself for the long haul. Still, with no bands I wanted to see, I had taken to wandering the festival and giving my ear drums a much needed break. That’s when I ventured into Tesoros’ tent.
It was filled with people. Sweaty people just as exhausted as I was, only they had pasty, sunburned skin to contend with too. Thank god for pigmentation. Julia looked a jewelry, while I wandered through the small tent perusing items I had no use or care for… until I saw the box. Sitting almost in the middle of the tent, underneath some earrings there was a box that people just wandered by uninterested.
It was filled with Luchador masks.
I knew the legacy, and I understood some of the lore. Though I wasn’t Mexican, I knew the power and majesty of these pieces of cloth, but I had never seen one up close before. I knelt down and began searching through the box. There were so many! One was white and gold like an angel with a closed mouth. There was one that was a mark up that was half of both Spider-man and Venom. There was even one that resembled the one that Ramses wore in the film Nacho Libre. As soon as I touched those masks I knew I had to have one.
I continued to search for the perfect mask. Deeper and deeper into the box I pressed. Time ticked on by. Julia was bored with jewelry and ready to go, but I didn’t care. Something was calling to me and I would be damned if I did not answer. Finally, all the way at the bottom sat the most amazing Mexican cultural artifact I had ever seen. It was a replica of Rey Mysterio’s mask. I was familiar enough with him to know that, but this mask felt different somehow. As soon as I touched it, I knew it was mine. I had never felt destiny before, but now I know what it means.
I pulled it from the wreckage, our eyes locked. This was my new face. I put it on and it felt so good. Like watching the universe be born. I suddenly saw the world through new eyes. The owner of the Tesoros looked at me and said, “That mask has chosen you.” And discounted the price. I wasn’t paying him for the mask. I was paying him for holding onto it for me.
I left Tesoros. I was rejuvenated! Filled with vigor from my new mantle. El Dynamo: The Black Lightening. Now, I didn’t not “wander” the campground of ACL. I stalked it! I sought challengers! Every person I passed I let them know of my grappling prowess. I had been a character without the mask, but with it on I was became so much more. I understood how Batman could do the things he did. I understood why Wolverine wore a mask even though everyone knows its him. Black Panther too. I was more than human. I was a demigod…
And everyone else knew it too.
A news team stopped me and asked me to recap the festival. Children cheered me and everyone smiled when they passed. The mask was a force for good and it was mine. Since then, I wore the mask on stage when I played shows with my bands. Sometimes in a suit. Sometimes with the cape Julia later made for me. To some, I am still synonymous with it. What I got on that fateful day was much more than a simple mask. It was a piece of a culture. But more importantly
It was destiny.