Prelude to El Niño

Ironically, I drew this on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Ironically, I drew this on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month.

September 15 through October 15 is national Hispanic Heritage Month, if you didn’t know. In that time, people recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate the group’s heritage and culture. September 15 was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. All declared independence in 1811. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively. So you see…pretty important time frame, culturally.

Still, this was not intended as a Hispanic Heritage Month post. Not at all.

You see, I live in Los Angeles, where it rarely rains. RARELY. Today (or more accurately, the day I drew this, it has been raining. That’s a huge deal. I get frustrated with people who seem to enjoy the rain though, or for that matter, talk about its environmental importance to me. I live in Los Angeles on purpose, to avoid weather. To have pretty much a nice climate all year ’round, 24/7. I’m not all that interested in people who say they like the rain, just because they don’t see it that often.

More importantly, Los Angelinos talk about “El Niño.” El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, and is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. El Niño Southern Oscillation refers to the cycle of warm and cold temperatures, as measured by sea surface temperature, of the tropical central and eastern Pacific Ocean. El Niño is accompanied by high air pressure in the western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern Pacific. The ENSO cycle, both El Niño and La Niña, causes global changes of both temperatures and rainfall.

I knew NONE of that before researching this post.

You see, to me, El Niño sounds like a “Luchador” or Mexican Wrestler. Luchadores are often kinds of folk heroes in Mexico, and I always envisioned El Niño as a sort of Luchador in charge of the weather. That’s why in panel three, El Niño has a mask with lightning bolts on it, and rainfall in the form of teardrops. So…that’s pretty much how the art happened…for years I’ve envisioned some kind of Weather Wrestler, and now, we see him, in his headquarters, debating when to re-enter the world.

The name El Niño is pretty interesting in it’s origins. Developing countries dependent upon agriculture and fishing, particularly those bordering the Pacific Ocean, are the most affected by El Niño. In Spanish, the capitalized term “El Niño” refers to the Christ child, “el Niño Jesús” (literal translation “The Boy”). La Niña, chosen as the ‘opposite’ of El Niño, literally means “The Girl”. El Niño was so named because periodic warming in the Pacific near South America is often noticed around Christmas.

Pretty neat, huh? Sort of a gift from heaven around Christmas for agricultural nations, hence the name. I always enjoy the etymology of terms…even though this one does not actually involve some kind of wrestler.

It also justifies the strip above, which was drawn prior to anything drastic like “research.” I pretty much took it on faith that El Niño was not around yet, waiting in some kind of Lucha-Castle, watching the rain, because everyone in Los Angeles keeps telling me “not for months” any time I mention the Wrestling Champ. Good to see there’s some science to back that up, as well as the etymology of the term itself.

I took today off, actually, to go see the doctor on what was a final visit about my arm. He signed off on my left arm as pretty much “fully functional,” which is a good thing. The new principal is pretty serious about documenting your sick days, so I had the office fax over a “yes, this was a legit visit” note to my school. All will be well, with that in the Main Office.

When I return, I’m hoping to see a rough draft of an essay ready, so that we can do editing. Note that I said “hope” as opposed to “expect.” In nearly two decades of teaching, I have rarely seen a meaningful assignment happen with a substitute teacher. In addition, there is a Latino Heritage Door Decorating Contest, for which I have NO information.

On some level, I would love to do a “History of Lucha Libre” display…but that isn’t in the context of the contest. For instance, a bit of research really demonstrated the masks’ importance to the event. Masks (máscaras) have been used dating back to the beginnings of lucha libre in the early part of the 20th century, and have a historical significance to Mexico in general, dating to the days of the Aztecs. Early masks were very simple with basic colors to distinguish the wrestler. In modern lucha libre, masks are colorfully designed to evoke the images of animals, gods, ancient heroes, and other archetypes, whose identity the luchador takes on during a performance. Virtually all wrestlers in Mexico will start their careers wearing masks, but over the span of their careers, a large number of them will be unmasked.

Sometimes, a wrestler who is retiring will be unmasked in his final bout or at the beginning of a final tour. Losing the mask can also signify the end of a gimmick with the wrestler moving on to a new gimmick and mask. The mask is A BIG DEAL, so much so that fully removing an opponent’s mask during a match is grounds for disqualification.

During their careers, masked luchadores will often be seen in public only when wearing their masks and keeping in character, while other masked wrestlers will interact with the public and press normally. However, they will still go to great lengths to conceal their true identities; in effect, the mask IS the luchador. El Santo continued wearing his mask after retirement, revealed his face briefly only in old age, and was buried wearing his silver mask.

In recent history, the masks luchadores wear have become iconic symbols of Mexican culture. Contemporary artists like Francisco Delgado and Xavier Garza incorporate wrestler masks in their paintings.

See that stuff…that’s interesting to me. It isn’t however, a report and collage about a “great leader in Latino History.” So, my interest in Lucha Libre will probably remain confined to the web site, here.

The mask design of the legendary "El Santo" or in English, "The Saint."

The mask design of the legendary “El Santo” or in English, “The Saint.”

I figured that I should post El Santo’s mask…since he was buried in it. That idea, of always being masked will be applied to El Niño in the strip, by the way. Special thanks to a longtime reader for suggesting the rainfall tears on the mask…you know who you are. Before I go on to another post, before I forget to make clear how similar los luchadores are to our beloved American Superheroes, I feel like I am obligated to post this awesome movie poster, below. It is from a film starring El Santo, who was buried in his mask, as I mentioned above. Translating the title: “El Santo versus the Vampire Women.” I can’t possibly encapsulate the awesomeness implied by that title, of a 1962 film starring a super wrestler. Let’s just look at the poster.

The awesomeness here speaks for itself.

The awesomeness here speaks for itself.

If you can’t translate the hype, it says: “The strength of the Saint and the agility of a panther against the devilish power of the vampire women!” Well…that pretty much says it all right there, and we have El Santo trying to rip the arm off of a wolf man, on top of it.

Honestly, I really want my homeroom kids to do a report on him. It seems like it would be a tone poem about awesomeness, punctuated by vampire women.

I feel like Stan Lee, for Hispanic Heritage Month would both tell us to “watch out for more of the fabulous El Niño!” and then shout “Muy Excellente!” instead of “Excelsior!”

So there you have it.

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