Cassandro El Exotico
Photographer: Ian Langsdon
The world of 'Lucha Libre' is one in which the athletic ability of freestyle wrestling encounters the art of dramatic showmanship, producing a spectacle unlike any other. The ring becomes a staging ground for acrobatic battles opposing masked fighters, known as 'luchadores'. Scripted storylines of good versus evil contextualize these fights in which luchadores, who adopt flamboyant stage personas, play characters from either the 'Technicos' faction (the good guys) or the 'Rudos' faction (the evil team).
A third and more unusual faction exists: The Exotico. Exoticos are male wrestlers who perform their fights in drag, and whose stage personas portray over-the-top caricatures and stereotypes of homosexuals. The feminine costumes and sexual ambiguity displayed by Exoticos contrasts with the machismo and virility boasted by luchadores - but in no way detracts from their physical prowess and combat skills in the ring.
Currently one of the most famous Exoticos, Cassandro, born Saul Armendariz on the US-Mexican border, is finishing a world tour before taking a two-year break in his wrestling career. For one night only, Cassandro El Exotico brought the pageantry and theatrics of Lucha Libre to Paris for an exhibition fight dubbed 'Exoticos vs Luchadores'. Held at the Cartier Foundation in central Paris, Cassandro and his trusted side-kick, Diva Salvaje took on two 'Rudos', Magnus and Puma King, in a gravity-defying show of acrobatic agility and physical comedy.