11 x 8.5 x 1.1 inches
I love lucha libre cinema. I love it when Santo and Blue Demon team up to fight Dracula’s daughter or invaders from Mars (mind you, in this world the two can be the same – Dracula’s daughter might well turn out to be an invader from Mars). And I love it when the two luchadores, dressed in their funky 1970’s suits, sit down with their girlfriends to eat cake and drink coffee in a fancy restaurant, and they’re still wearing their masks. And I love how the movies are interspersed with wrestling matches, like dancing sequences in Bollywood blockbusters. So, not surprisingly, I also love Lourdes Grobet’s photos. But while Grobet has worked on the film sets of some of these movies and photographed Santo in between shoots – when the star grabs a taco or an ice cream – Espectacular de Lucha Libre: Fotografias de Lourdes Grobet (Trilce) shows that lucha libre is much more than the secret agent sci-fi monster super hero universe of the films: Grobet’s book takes as its subject the full world of Mexican wrestling.
Espectacular de Lucha Libre is packed with images Grobet has taken of luchadores and luchadoras, and the world surrounding them, over a period of close to 30 years. Here are the arenas, the promoters, the vendors, and the fans. And, of course, the wrestlers – as they prepare for their matches, leave home, arrive at the arena, sign autographs, and … well, wrestle. There are posed studio portraits and candid shots in the wrestler’s homes. (As she seeks to reflect lucha libre in the Mexican cultural-political history, Grobet also photographs a prehispanic stone head from Cholula, and Tecuanes from Zitlala – dressed akin to luchadores they prepare for their ritual combat where they ask for a good rainy season. “In Mexico,” Grobet once pointed out, “politics and culture, rites and survival are condensed in the symbol of the mask.”)
Through hundreds and hundreds of photos on 296 beautiful pages, Grobet’s work makes for a thick visual description of the Mexican wrestling scene. I find myself going back to this book, again and again, to engulf myself in the life steaming from its pages. It’s good stuff.
Martin Hoyem is a cultural anthropologist and the founder, publisher and editor of American Ethnography. Doing fieldwork among lowriders in Los Angeles and writing about outlaw aesthetics, he received his graduate degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Oslo in Norway. Hoyem has also done ethnographic fieldwork in fast food restaurants in Phoenix and Miami.
He spends a lot of time reading, and as a result he is outstandingly reflective when watching TV. All that education has—as we say—finally paid off … like, totally.