Depiction of El Santo's Mask (Wikimedia Commons)
Fans of Luchador, Mexican wrestling, know the name "El Santo" and his trademark silver mask. The man behind the mask, Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta (Sept. 23, 1917 – Feb. 5, 1984), wrestled for nearly 50 years as "El Santo" –– the Saint –– and several other characters, but his career as "el enmascarado de plata" –– the silver masked man ––made him one of the most enduring symbols of Mexican popular culture, even 30 years after his death.
His matches were legendary, fueled by his natural charisma and high-flying aerial techniques, but the enduring legacy of El Santo was built outside the ring. Starting in 1952, Guzmán appeared as a masked man in more than 50 films over the next 30 years. The storylines were usually similar. Santo, a masked wrestler and part-time superhero, would do battle with various villains, often mad scientists, zombies or vampire women. Here he is protecting Earth from Martians:
Santo also was the star of his own comic book series, which ran continuously for an astonishing 35 years, ending in 1987 –– three years after Santo's death. In recent years, Luchador-themed animated programs in Mexico and America have included characters based on Santo and his trademark silver uniform. His legacy is carried on now by his youngest son, who wrestles beneath the same silver mask as "El Hijo del Santo" –– the Son of Santo.
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, Guzman 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. Per his final wishes, Guzmán was buried in his mask, taking the legend of El Santo with him to the grave.
Written by Seth Joseph. Find him on Google+.