Their memories live on, with Blue Demon's son assuming his father's mask and ring persona, sometimes wrestling, as he did in Pico Rivera, alongside El Hijo de Santo (Son of the Saint), who wears a replica of the glistening mask with teardrop eyeholes his father made famous.
A decade ago, luchalucha was available in Southern California only on Spanish-language TV or in grainy black-and-white Mexican movies. Today, more than two dozen promoters, many with their own stable of masked wrestlers, put on regular shows in American Legion halls, sports arenas and community centers in Ventura, Newhall, Compton and the Coachella Valley, drawing a few dozen to several thousand fans.
National circuits are attracting impressive crowds in El Paso, Chicago, Denver and Omaha. Coca-Cola named an energy drink and a Slurpee after Blue Demon. There's a lucha-themed restaurant, El Carmen, in Los Angeles, and lucha-inspired burlesque shows at the Mayan Theater downtown. Even Paris (the one in France) has a nightclub called La Lucha Libre that features wrestling matches.
The fact that lucha has cut such a wide swath through the cultural landscape comes as no surprise to Heather Levi, an anthropology lecturer at Temple University.
"It did several things at once," says Levi, who trained as a wrestler in Mexico while researching her book "The World of Lucha Libre: Secrets, Revelations, and Mexican National Identity." "It figured both as a display of these larger-than-life heroes but heroes that everybody . . . knew came from their social class or quite possibly [were] their neighbors."
It even parodied the political system, because it was an unspoken secret that the results of lucha matches were decided in a smoke-filled room long before they began -- just as many Mexicans suspected the outcome of most elections was predetermined.
Fittingly, the most popular and successful luchadores have come to represent political causes; some crusaded for animal and gay rights or for women's equality and the environment.
The most powerful of these, the red-and-gold-masked Superbarrio, rose from the rubble of a deadly earthquake to advocate for the homeless and working poor -- with surprising results.
"When Superbarrio addressed politicians, politicians who were very good at this very slick self-presentation, they would start to stammer," Levi says. "They wouldn't know where to look or how to look at [him]. And so the power dynamic shifted.
"There was no way to co-opt him because he didn't exist. He was incorruptible because he both existed but at the same time didn't exist."
For more than two decades, Sergio Gutierrez, a Mexican priest, concealed his identity and wrestled as Fray Tormenta (Friar Storm) to support the orphanage he founded outside Mexico City. That story was the basis for the film "Nacho Libre," which starred Jack Black.
The anonymity benefited these masked men (there are female luchadoras, but few wear masks): Nobody knew who they were, which meant they could be anyone.
"In America, you knew Bruce Wayne is Batman," says Dan Madigan, a Sherman Oaks screenwriter and author of "Mondo-Lucha a Go-Go: The Bizarre and Honorable World of Wild Mexican Wrestling." "You didn't know who Santo was. You didn't know who Blue Demon was. You didn't know Mil Mascaras. That was the thing."
And that's kept Guerrero, the self-taught mask maker, in business. The masks, he says, are more than a disguise. They can actually transform ordinary people into something superhuman.
"The personality is the mask," explains Guerrero, who says he's seen wrestlers limp into his Van Nuys workshop, try on a mask they've commissioned and then walk out cured.
Working on a weathered Japanese-made sewing machine in a spare bedroom of the tiny apartment he shares with his wife and two sons, Guerrero makes as many as 15 masks a week, most of which sell for between $50 and $100. Some were seen in "Nacho Libre," in commercials for Foster Farms and AT&T and on the heads of some of Mexico's most famous luchadores.
His work space is a shrine to lucha, crowded with dozens of masks, wrestling tights, boots, capes and hundreds of old lucha magazines and black-and-white movies starring El Santo and Blue Demon.
"Lucha comes from the time of Zorro, who covered his face and helped the poor," Guerrero says.
Like the legend of Zorro, lucha has become something that's passed down from generation to generation -- sometimes by happenstance.
Fabian Gonzalez, a paramedic and second-generation Mexican American, was raised on a Coachella ranch by grandparents who grew up as huge lucha fans. But they never talked about it with their grandson until Gonzalez discovered the sport on his own as a teenager, after which his grandfather sat him down and talked about lucha's long history in Mexico.
"The fascination with the masks and all the costumes. That's what got me into it. It's straight out of a comic book," says Gonzalez, 25, who has wrestled on local lucha circuits under the name Fabian Furia (Fabian Fury). "I felt like a sense of nationalism . . . It just made us closer."
As Gonzalez talks on a bright Saturday morning in the backyard of a Norwalk tract home, several wrestling hopefuls -- some Latin, some not -- are put through their paces by another veteran luchadore, Joey Munoz. His ring name, Kaos, matches the mayhem he's managing, with students leaping off the turnbuckles, tossing opponents into the ropes or pinning them hard to the canvas with a loud thwack.
Back in Cudahy, Garcia has brought his son Dylan to experience the passion of his homeland alongside 500 mostly Mexican fans. The 3-year-old is wearing the dark blue, ornately adorned mask of '50s lucha idol Hurcan Ramirez.
"Many people can't return to their country," Garcia says as Dylan teeters on a folding chair, straining to get a better look into the ring. "If they can go and see a little bit of the Mexican luchadores [here], even though it's just for an hour, two hours. . . . it's like a little visit home."