The Drag Queens Of Lucha Libre

by Dish Staff

In a fascinating profile of gay luchador Saúl Armendáriz, William Finnegan offers a brief history of the gender-bending exótico:

Exóticos have been around since the 1940s. At first, they were dandies, a subset of rudos with capes and valets. They struck glamour-boy poses and threw flowers to the audience. As exóticos got swishier and more flirtatious, and started dressing in drag, the shtick became old-school limp-wristed gay caricature. Crowds loved to hate them, screaming “Maricón!” and “Joto!” (“Faggot!”). The exóticos made a delightful contrast with the super-masculine brutes they met in the ring. Popular exóticos insisted that it was all an act—in real life, they were straight. Baby Sharon was among the first, according to Armendáriz, to publicly say that, no, he was actually gay.

At his début as an exótico, Armendáriz wore no mask. “For my entrance, I wore a butterfly blouse of my mother’s. I wore the tail of my sister’s quinceañera dress. And then, to wrestle, a woman’s bathing suit.” He was billed as Rosa Salvaje, but the match was in Juárez, where everybody knew him. It was a terrifying night. “I thought it was a secret that I was gay, so I thought I was coming out. But everybody already knew. I was the only one who didn’t know.” Still, people yelled, “Kill the fag!” Rosa Salvaje, like Mister Romano, was quick and tough. No limp wrists or squealing. Maybe a brief bump and grind after hurling an opponent from the ring into the first row of seats. Maybe a shock kiss on the mouth for some stud he had in a submission hold. The crowds adored the act.

Previous Dish on exóticos here.