Today is the birthday of Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta better known in Mexico as the legendary luchadore and B Movie hero El Santo. Those of you who follow my classic wrestling audio shows know I am a huge fan of Lucha Libre, especially classic lucha libre. I have done multiple podcasts on El Santo in the past. I even, here in 2016, frequently wear an El Santo t-shirt. In my wrestling mask collection I have- not one- but two El Santo masks. El Santo is the ultimate culture super hero of lucha libre.
The cultural impact of El Santo in Mexico simply can not be overstated. He is less like Hulk Hogan (What 'Cha Gonna Do?) in the United States and better compared to Elvis (That's All Right Mama), Muhammad Ali (He who floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee), dare I say even Coca-Cola (have it and a smile). He is a gigantic figure.
The trinity of Mexican wrestling is El Santo, Blue Demon, and Mil Mascaras. All three were gigantic lucha libre wrestling stars and all three did multiple action movies. The lucha libre Mexican action films could sort of be compared to the Hong Kong Kung-Fu films of the 1970's better than anything I guess. They were often low budget tripe involving monsters, time travel, and science fiction with lucha libre being the backdrop for adventures. The enmascardos never took their masks off during the course of the movie. Even if they were swimming, showering, eating dinner, of making love to their women, the stars of these movies always stayed in their masked personas giving the movies and often comical and somewhat creepy under tone.
There isn't a ton of surviving footage of El Santo wrestling. Most of what you will find on YouTube is either clipped from an El Santo movie or his retirement match in the early 1980's. El Santo, by many accounts, wasn't the greatest in-ring worker you've ever seen but he played the underdog who almost always came back to win. He wasn't an unbeatable monster like a modern day Hulk Hogan or, I guess when I say modern day I should actually use a modern day example so I'll say, Brock Lesnar.
El Santo was born on September 23, 1917 and died on February 5, 1984. I have always found it eerie that just weeks before his death he spontaneously unmasked for about a second on television. It was one of those weird "did he know something?" kind of moments in time. Weeks later he would be buried in that same mask.
If you aren't familiar with El Santo you owe it to yourself to look him up. He was a mega-star in another time and place and a true cultural icon.