Literary lucha libre: It’s a battle of words between writers wearing luchador wrestling masks.
Husband and wife tag team Christopher Vazquez and Angie Silva founded an event for Peru’s up and coming writers to compete in the ring, based on the Mexican wrestling tradition of agile men in colorful masks and iridescent, tight-fitting outfits who try to pin each other to the ground.
Lucha Libro writers wear the masks but are allowed to wear street clothes. They get on a stage in a bar in Lima and grapple with each other – using just their words.
Each writer dons a mask and sits at a computer hooked to a projection screen, composing a story in real time. Writers are given a few words as a prompt for each round and have five minutes to write a story. The audience declares the winner.
The competition started in 2011; this year, for the first time, the Lucha Libro champion will win a book deal. In Peru, where books can be very expensive and not many of them are published each year, this is an even bigger deal than it sounds. Dante Trujillo, who runs the Peruvian publishing house Solar, told Public Radio International that given Peru’s particular history — the civil war in the 1980s, followed by economic collapse — “the prospects for young authors just beginning their careers, the best advice you can give them is to get out of Peru.”
In a story on Lucha Libro for the Believer in May, Christopher Heaney reported that the event is so important to emerging writers that “some participants travel over an hour from pooerer neighborhoods to compete, and there are writers in the provinces, daylong bus rides away, who want in.”
Heaney’s feature mentions that most publishing in Peru is by necessity self-publishing, because the country simply doesn’t have the same scale to its editorial and publishing industry. In the same paragraph, he writes that there is hardly much of a market for literary for literary fiction and practically no master of fine arts programs.
Lucho Libro co-founder Christopher Vasquez told PRI that he wanted to create the event to help redefine the way that Peruvians relate to literature. It’s “about changing the idea that literature is boring,” he says. “This turns it into an event. Because it’s not just about the opportunity for a young person to become a writer. It’s also about having a place for young people to hang out -- and to read.”