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Book Review
By

Vincent Bosquez

[This review first appeared in

The San Antonio Express-News]

 

Mondo Lucha A Go-Go
By Dan Madigan
      

Book Review: 'Mondo Lucha A Go-Go' a fun look at the sport and its characters in Mexico

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a sports fan. But before I became a rabid aficionado of the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Astros and the San Antonio Spurs, there was lucha libre —Mexican-style wrestling that for an 8-year-old boy like me provided more drama, bravado and excitement than I could ever hope for at that young age.

I remember asking my dad for what seemed like the thousandth time after another bloody victory by my hero, Mil Mascaras, if wrestling was real. My dad would smile at me and ask if I enjoyed the match. I would reply "yes" with all the enthusiasm a kid could muster, to which he would always respond, "Well then, that's all that really matters, isn't it?"

Now, 40 years later, I'm recalling those carefree memories of my youth thanks to the publication of "Mondo Lucha A Go-Go: The Bizarre & Honorable World of Wild Mexican Wrestling" by Dan Madigan. For those of you who haven't been introduced to lucha libre, which loosely translated means free-style fighting, it's wrestling with a dramatic flair and solid back stories for its masked luchadores (fighters), not to be confused with what Vince McMahon promotes on this side of the border with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

The early chapters of the book take the reader from the humble beginnings of the sport to the phenomenon it became in Mexico in the early 1930s that exists even to this date. The story is told in an easy, conversational manner without scholarly references or wrestling gobbledygook. Subsequent chapters give short biographies and fight histories on some of the most famous masked fighters in Mexico that lucha libre has ever produced, such as El Santo (the Saint), El Demonio Azul (the Blue Demon), and Mil Mascaras (A Thousand Masks).

While lucha libre became popular because of its high-flying acrobatic leaps, fierce wrestling holds and a clear distinction between wrestlers fighting for good or evil, it's the back stories that every luchador brings into the ring that give fans a greater sense of "knowing" their wrestler and rooting for his cause. Take, for instance, Madigan's view on the early beginnings of Mil Mascaras:

"The creation myth resembles that of Spiderman or Captain America. The hero is created out of tragic happenstance and scientific meddling. The story unfolds in a European war-ravaged wasteland — the body of a dead woman is found, and in her arms she is still clutching her baby, who is miraculously alive. He is taken in by a group of scientists using him as a secret test subject in an experiment to create a superhuman agent to some day pit against aggressive foreign powers."

Madigan generously sprinkles his book with colorful pictures of luchadores and their masks, along with posters, photos, wrestling cards, handbills and other mementos that make the flamboyant and exciting world of Mexican wrestling come alive. The graphics transcend any cultural or language barriers, and produce a "wow" factor that would delight any sports fan.

"Mondo Lucha A Go-Go" is a book that is well worth its price in photos alone and one that followers of lucha libre will want for their collection. Madigan attempts to answer the age-old question on whether the sport is real or fake, but for me, my late dad's response still holds true today and it applies to this book as well: I enjoyed it, and that's all that really matters.

 

Vincent Bosquez retired with the rank of captain from the U.S. Marine Corps after 23 years of service and is president of the Society of Latino and Hispanic Writers of San Antonio.