The Gay Wrestlers Of Mexico

Eric Nusbaum explores the evolving culture of the exótico:

Mexico’s professional wrestling tradition, known as lucha libre, is a deeply ingrained part of the national culture. Exóticos have long been a part of that tradition: wrestlers who dress in drag and kiss their rivals, never quite revealing whether the joke is on their opponents, themselves or conservative Mexican society at large. Most working today are gay members of an often ostracized minority for whom lucha libre is a statement of pride, or at least a campy, unrestrained extension of self. …

The old-time exóticos had been straight men harping on tired gay clichés. In the mid-1980s, that began to change. A new generation of openly gay wrestlers reveled in the exótico’s sexuality, coyly tweaking stereotypes to confront the audience with the idea that being gay could be something more than a stage joke. They also ushered the exótico out of villainy.

Lucha libre’s organizing principle is good vs. evil: técnico contra rudo. Técnicos are graceful, honorable and skilled wrestlers. Rudos win with brute strength and by cheating when the referee’s back is turned. Where the early exóticos had been exclusively rudos, some of the new generation began to assume the role of técnico.

It’s not always an easy sell. Today, gay marriage is legal in Mexico City, but the overwhelmingly Catholic country still has one of Latin America’s highest rates of antigay hate crimes, and casual homophobia is deeply ingrained. Even progressive people throw around slurs like puto and maricón without a second thought, and when [star exótico] Maximo steps into the ring, he’s subjected to a string of insults. Observers suggest that lucha libre serves as an outlet for people to shout away their stress and anxieties, to let go of a long, hard week or month or life by drinking beer and engaging in the show. That chance for spectators to lose themselves in the action has been part of lucha libre since the earliest days. “Such catharsis,” Mexican poet Salvador Novo wrote of luche libre in the 1940s, “is not only hygienic, not only psychologically healthy, but profoundly Catholic.”

Update from a reader:

For an example of a “good” exotico, look no further than Lucha VaVoom and its star wrestler Cassando. He is a high-flying luchador known for his entertaining entrances. He has been, and is currently, a Champion, which is supposedly a first for an exotico.