An enduring symbol of Mexican pop culture, but who was the man behind the mask?
By: Legacy Staff
5 years ago
Fans of Mexican wrestling, aka lucha libre, know the name "El Santo."
With is iconic silver mask, the luchador El Santo ("the Saint") is one of the most enduring symbols of Mexican popular culture. His matches were legendary, fueled by his natural charisma and high-flying aerial techniques. The wrestler (and part-time superhero) appeared in more than 50 films doing battle with various villains including mad scientists, zombies, and aliens. Here he is in a 1962 cult classic "Santo vs. las Mujeres Vampiro" (aka "Samson vs. the Vampire Women"):
For three decades, the man behind the mask was Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta (1917 – 1984). Guzmán's wrestling career spanned 50 years and several different characters, but it was as "el enmascarado de plata" – the silver masked man – that he made his mark on pop culture.
Throughout Guzmán's career, he kept his face – and identity – carefully hidden behind his silver mask. He fought dozens of bouts in which the loser was unmasked publicly, and he always came out on top. That changed in late January 1984, a year after he retired. As a guest on the popular Mexican television program "Contrapunto," Guzmán raised his mask, with no warning, and showed his face publicly for the first and last time. He died of a heart attack just a week later and, per his final wishes, was buried in his mask.
But the legend of El Santo lives on. Santo was the star of a comic book series that ran continuously for an astonishing 35 years, ending in 1987 – three years after Guzmán's death. In recent years, luchador-themed animated programs in Mexico and America have included characters based on Santo and his trademark silver uniform. And his legacy is carried on by his youngest son, who wrestles in a similar silver mask as El Hijo del Santo – the Son of Santo.