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  • Superheroes
  • Gabriela Alemán (bio)
    Translated by Dick Cluster (bio)

I looked closely at the tapes, and it was a fact—every one of El Santo’s speaking parts in those six films was dubbed. His lips were out of synch with the sound. Maybe he didn’t remember his lines, or maybe it was a clever way to hide the fact that different voices were doing the talking. That was why everything she told me helped to confer a degree of order on things. What I had discovered in the Mexicali newspaper, while searching for a detail from early 1976, finally made sense. It was just a tiny article that I ran across, about a border-area wrestling card featuring Black Shadow versus El Cavernario Galindo and El Santo versus Blue Demon in Tijuana. The article said the fight would be restaged on the other side of the border, too, to promote El Santo’s movies in the drive-ins of the US. It would have been nothing more than an arcane curiosity if I hadn’t known that El Santo was in Ecuador filming a well-publicized picture, El Santo Versus the Kidnappers, during those same months. I jotted the fact in my notebook, photocopied the newspaper page, went back to what turned out to be a fruitless search in the archives, and later forgot what I had read. Or not quite forgot, but decided that the reporter had read the teletype wrong or that the filming in my country had taken place later in the year.

Years went by until a business trip to Mexico gave me the chance to buy a magazine collection that a friend had requested for her son. During the return flight, bored, I leafed through the magazines. One of them had a complete filmography of movies featuring the wrestling stars of the sixties and seventies. The research team was huge, but given the number of films I doubted that anybody had taken the trouble to compare the dates of production or premieres. I did it, because the curious fact from the Mexicali paper surfaced again in my brain. I discovered that El Santo made six films in ’76. This was easily possible. It just meant the movies were of doubtful quality, because B-movies were usually filmed in three weeks, and they were assembled more [End Page 42] than produced. Of the six, one was shot in Istanbul, another in Quito and Guayaquil, the next in San Juan, another in Guatemala City and Antigua, another in Mexico City, and the last at Machu Picchu. In that same year, remember, El Santo had been in the neighborhood of Tijuana for some weeks, and according to the archives of the Mexican Wrestling Federation, he headlined more than three wrestling cards a month in arenas all across the country throughout the year. I photocopied the magazine before giving it to my friend.

It’s an obvious story, as obvious as the fragility of a house of cards. That’s why no one wants to touch it. Do you want to deny that? We’re talking about the King Midas of the cinema, the guy who packed movie houses on both sides of the Atlantic, who filled arenas for his fights, who made cash registers jingle—and who wore a mask. This was the era of the decline of Churubusco Studios, feverish demands by the film unions, proliferation of television but complete prohibition of televising wrestling matches. And it was the onset of old age for the stars of the Golden Era. Come on, wasn’t anybody going to think of this? Tell me no producer did! How much did El Santo charge? Too much. Using a double would be a deal too good to resist. Think about it. If someone claimed that wasn’t really him on the screen, that it wasn’t him filling the coffers of PeliMex Distributors in Honduras, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, then who could it be? The answer would require taking off the mask, revealing his identity, destroying the mystery, renouncing the myth. In defense of what? Honor, truth, and certain principles? Accusing PeliMex was the same thing as...


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pp. 42-48
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