Tuesday, May 25, 2010
The year was 1991. The date, July 5th. It was a day all in attendance will not soon forget. They'd traveled by foot, by ramshackle bus and by burro across unforgiving terrain. They braved scorching heat, grabby federales and the constant fear that any rustling overheard in the brush might be the dreaded Chupacabra - no longer content to apply its fangs to their goats under cover of night.
It was all a small price to pay for this moment.
They'd seen the posters affixed to cantina walls. They'd heard the whispers which then escalated into a chorus of fevered excitement. For the first time, two institutions of Mexican high culture - the glorious luchadores and the regal fighting cocks - were to be as one in the fight of the century. Mexican pride in a dark rich mole of blood and brutality. A true Mexican championship.
Representing the cocks, well, it was never a question. The fierce "El Gallo Loco" had burnished quite a reputation for himself with a vicious aerial peck, slide, peck move which took all of one second to incapacitate an opponent. He would then preen in a circle around the fallen, stand fully erect with his head stretched toward the sky and commence a nose dive straight for his mark's neck.
And then he'd pause right before impact to ham it up for the crowd. Sometimes he'd do this twice. A cocky cock, this one, but the crowd ate it up. As word spread, so did the carnival atmosphere. But as always in this noble but ill-fated land, never is there glory to which tragedy doesn't soon befall. El Gallo Loco's legend was such that none dared bet against him. And what, pray tell, was the point of running a gambling enterprise if nobody bets on the inevitable loser?
El Gallo Loco thus found himself eventually banished from what was his life's calling. He was abandoned by the powers that be and left to roam the countryside scaring small children for his own amusement and savaging goats for sustenance. He grew ever more agitated and took to the drink.
Representing the Luchadores was also an easy choice. Felipe Calderon was not an ordinary luchador. He had a fighting style more refined, perhaps owing to his Spaniard oppressor blood. It was said he was a bit of a dandy, a ladyboy, and that this young stallion's mounting string of easy victories were due to his opponents' reluctance to administer beatdowns to a chica. His legion of fans rejected this view and like "El Calderon" himself when faced with such lies they would place their right hands on their hips and exclaim: "Scoreboard! Bitches!"
And that was that. He was, after all, a champion.
And so, when that day arrived they found themselves face to face in the ring. The man with panache, savoir faire and derring-do; The flamboyant and fearless fighting cock fresh off a stint in rehab. Feathers were ruffled. Flesh was pecked. The floor was covered in blood and sweat. But after six grueling rounds of back and forth, El Calderon collapsed in exhaustion.
In landing, he'd flattened the relentless El Gallo Loco like a corn tortilla. The onlooking peasants - many of whom had questioned his very gender moments earlier - were exultant. "El Presidente! El Presidente!" Their chants as spontaneous as they were vigorous. "El Presidente! El Presidente!" they persisted. Mexico had but one champion now.
Luchador. Crusher of rambunctious poultry. Why not, indeed, president? And so the crude viral campaign began. They affixed his picture to candles. Young boys whittled his likeness with wood scraps. Old men scratched his face in adobe when the blazing midday sun and rotgut Mezcal conspired to give them visions. Even drug lords in Chihuahua forbade the beheading of any man or woman who slightly bore resemblance to him.
With seasoning and the hopeful prayers of a nation, that day - his ascendance to the presidency - did finally arrive. And the people went to work. And the violence, it ended. The exodus abated. The corruption slowed to a trickle. Ignorance was vaporized. Ambition reigned supreme across the landscape. It has been a riveting Mexican story of renewal these past few years. The tale of a great man and his people, the denouement of which found Felipe Calderon in the full bloom of manhood at the house of the American Devil wagging his finger like a proud and wise luchador to the raucous applause of the enlightened. Congreass has not seen his likeness. What a moment. What a man. What a culture. What a country.