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Pin pals grapple for a cause

Times Staff Writer

More than 300 Latino immigrants gathered in a sweltering Panorama City lot on Saturday to witness the birth of an unassuming hero -- a compact, dark-skinned man wearing a T-shirt, jeans, running shoes and a garish silver-and-blue mask.

They call him Super Mojado, or Super Wetback.

He was the star of a main wrestling event where bad guys in stretch pants worn under brightly colored underwear were supposed to get their lumps to raise funds for 130 illegal immigrants waiting to be deported. The immigrants were arrested during a recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid at the Van Nuys headquarters of Micro Solutions Enterprises, a manufacturer of computer imaging supplies.

Tickets went for $10 a person, or whatever a customer could afford.

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Super Mojado strode into the ring and climbed up on the ropes to declare his mission -- “I’ve come to fight against discrimination and for immigrants of all ethnic backgrounds!” Moments later he was confronted by a grimacing white foe whose affiliation was announced in the huge letters sewn onto the legs of his orange-and-black stretch pants: INS, the former acronym of the U.S. Immigration Service.

It was classic lucha libre, or Mexican “free fight,” which is a popular form of teatro do los pobres, or poor man’s theater, in which the good guys get beaten senseless and trampled while on their backs and gasping for breath. Then, as the referee is about to slap a open palm down on the mat for a third time, they rally and take care of business.

For their mostly working-class fans, the luchaderos embody the most pressing desires and hot-button issues of the moment. When the Mexican economy was in a nose dive, a tag team emerged as the Dollar and Peso.

Then there was Super Barrio, the poor man’s friend, and Super Amores, a titan of love whose black costume was covered with red hearts.

Now, in the aftermath of a series of high-profile immigration raids that have separated parents from their children and focused renewed attention on deportation proceedings, Super Mojado has emerged to defend the nation’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

“You’re going back to Mexico!” INS Man yelled as the crowd hurled a torrent of angry epithets, called groceros, at him.

Super Mojado and loyal sidekicks, including Matt of the Repo Show, didn’t like that. Tag team warfare erupted in the ring.

Eventually, the good guys chased the combatants back into a nearby dressing room.

So who is that masked man?

“I want to keep that a secret from everyone except my mother because I needed her blessing,” Super Mojado said in Spanish. “I will come out of hiding whenever the community needs me.”

For all his strength, courage and wit, however, there was one thing Super Mojado could not do. That was to get rid of the house-arrest tracking bracelets attached to the legs of the 130 arrested Feb. 7 pending their court proceedings. Many of them volunteered at Saturday’s grunt-and-groan spectacle to serve lunches of tacos and corn on the cob, clean the lot and sell tickets.

“I want to reach out and take off their ankle bracelets,” Super Mojado said from behind the mask. “But I can’t.”

The wrestling ring, which was 19 feet square and 3 feet high, and the services of the 25 grapplers who fought in it were donated by Joe and Leo Medina, owners of Pacific Promotions, which specializes in professional wrestling and boxing events.

The event was held at the headquarters of Hermandad Mexicana, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping immigrants with legal problems.

“I never thought this character, Super Mojado, would get this big this fast,” Joe Medina said. “This is his first of many matches. But we’re not going to exploit it.”

Super Mojado is wrestling for charity, not profit, Medina explained.

Judging from the outpouring of appreciation at Saturday’s free-for-all, Super Mojado would probably continue to be top of the ticket at future events, taking a beating and then bopping his opponents with the moral support of allies like Matt of the Repo Show, a first-generation Irish immigrant dedicated to defending underdogs.

“Super Mojado symbolizes the hopes and struggles of immigrants everywhere,” said lucha libre fan Marisol Velasquez, 33. “I think we have a winner.”

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louis.sahagun@latimes.com


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