A lucha libre fighter who goes by the name "Dr Maldad" waits backstage before the start of Lucha VaVOOM – an event that touts itself as the place “where authentic Mexican masked wrestling, striptease and comedy collide.”
The show at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles celebrated the holiday of Cinco de Mayo with a heady mix of wrestling and burlesque dancing.
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"I could barely hear as a security official warned me to watch out for luchadores flying out of the ring."
The holiday of Cinco de Mayo, Spanish for May 5, commemorates the Mexican army's victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 and has become a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage in the United States.
In Los Angeles, the date is marked in all sorts of ways and this year one of them in particular attracted my attention – Lucha VaVoom, a show of lucha libre Mexican wrestling and burlesque performances at the Mayan Theater.
I was intrigued by the story I had found, and although I didn't know what to expect, I was excited to take a peek into the world of the "luchadores,” as the fighters are known, for one evening.
The luchadores are almost like super heroes in the ring: they wear costumes, have alter-ego names, and, most importantly, they wear masks to conceal their identity.
I knew that besides capturing their fights I wanted to portray how they get into the zone before their performances. I had to be a fly on the wall and it was vital to be tactful about their identity, just like you would be with a super hero.
My first stop, of course, was backstage. As I navigated my way around, I noticed dancers, performers and, in the most remote area, the locker room where the luchadores were getting ready.
The atmosphere was exciting, just as you would expect before a wrestling match. The wrestlers exercised, stretched, fixed their costumes and, of course, they wore their masks. I walked around discretely and shot some photos.
Immediately, and not surprisingly perhaps, I realised that despite the costumes and the masks, this was a serious business for them, as it should be when you are talking about leaping 15 feet into the air to land on your adversary.
Before I knew it, it was show time. The theatre was sold out, the crowd was lively, and the excitement was palpable among the joyous and festive audience. It only grew when the announcer started screaming the names of the first luchadores.
As the crowd got louder and I got into position, I could barely hear as a security official warned me to watch out for luchadores flying out of the ring.
The visuals and the athleticism exceeded my expectations, as these guys and gals were leaping, flipping and flying in midair. Just as I had been warned, they brought their fights out of the ring, into the audience and then back into the ring again, providing me with my best photo of the night – a luchador leaping fearlessly into the crowd.
The show finished after three fights and a few burlesque intermissions, and I left with a renewed admiration for these wrestlers.