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A new era of lucha libre takes hold in central El Paso

by Emanuel Anthony Martinez and Francis Regalado // July 4, 2013 // Neighborhoods

Lucha Libre Live in El Paso from Newspaper Tree on Vimeo.

In an nondescript white building near the corner of Pershing Dr. and N. Stevens St., in central El Paso, the Ontiveros family carries on the tradition of lucha libre. A bright yellow sign hangs next to the entrance: “N.E.W. Presenta LUCHA LIBRE DOMINGO JUN 16 5:30.”

Lucha libre is a type of professional wrestling in which the contestants, called “luchadores,” wear masks and use rapid, acrobatic techniques to wrestle each other. While the masks keep the identities of the luchadores a secret, we know enough to understand that some wrestlers are good and others are bad. The “rudos,” which means “rude,” are cheaters and are considered bad people. On the other hand, the “técnicos,” which means “technical,” are the good guys who follow the rules.

According to Mexican historian Israel Torres Hernández, modern lucha libre has its roots in El Paso.

In 1929, a former lieutenant in the Mexican Revolution, Salvador Lutteroth Gonzalez, came to Ciudad Juarez, across the river from El Paso, to work as a Mexican tax official. During his years in Juarez he often crossed to El Paso. And it was during these trips that he discovered the wrestling world at Liberty Hall, an auditorium that once stood next to the El Paso County Courthouse.

It was at wrestling matches north of the river that Lutteroth Gonzalez came across such characters as “Yaqui” Joe, “Cyclone” Mackey, and “Black” Guzman (see the slideshow below). Less than a decade later, on September 21, 1933, Lutteroth Gonzalez traveled to Mexico City with four American wrestlers to sponsor a wrestling exhibition. Soon after he founded the Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre (EMLL) and today Lutteroth Gonzalez is known as the “Father of Lucha Libre.”

Last week, in central El Paso, Jose Ontiveros, N.E.W. promoter, said that lucha libre is more than a sport. “For us it’s an art,” he said. “It’s much more than a sport, because a wrestler has to know how to express how he feels on the ring.”

Ontiveros first became involved in lucha libre through his sons. “I used to take my children to Mexican wrestling, because it’s a tradition to take the kids to entertain them. And there I began to like wrestling very much.” That was five years ago. Today, his sons are profession wrestlers.

In the beginning, Ontiveros found his sons a coach to teach them to become professional wrestlers, but then the coach had to leave town. His children didn’t have a place to practice until Ontiveros built a professional 20 by 20 foot ring himself. It is made of metal, wood, mats and elevator cables.

Eight months ago, the three sons who became professional wrestlers—Omar, Andres, and Edgar—took over their father’s gym and created N.E.W. “They started what is becoming N.E.W. – which stands for ‘New Era Wrestling,’” Ontiveros said.

He continued, “We want to renew Mexican wrestling here in El Paso. There have been great wrestlers who came from here. There is the Guerrero family. Right now there is a young man in the W.W.E. (World Wrestling Entertainment) who’s name is ‘El Hunico.’ He graduated from Burges High School. There are still very good wrestlers here in El Paso.”

N.E.W. teaches wrestlers how to roll, fall, do acrobatics, submission holds, and their dramatic roles as a técnico or a rudo.

Edgar Cazares has trained with the N.E.W. since October 2012. “My neighbors knew I used to wrestle before and told me about Ontiveros and I started training with N.E.W.,” he said. “I used to know some of the stuff, but not everything. They taught me more and I started improving.”

“We are a Mexican family trying to bring back lucha libre here in El Paso,” said Martha Ontiveros, N.E.W. concessions manager.

On occasion N.E.W. invites experienced luchadores, like Black Fish, to join them in tournaments.

The N.E.W. trains wrestlers of all ages. Jose Ontiveros said it’s not easy. It takes hard work and dedication. And it is more difficult the older the person, because older wrestlers need strict conditioning.

“It is a spectacular sport. Wrestlers jump out of the ring and flip in the air. We get students to become disciplined. To come to practice every day. To be more responsible,” said Edgar Ontiveros.

N.E.W. also hopes to include more women in the sport. “There are good women wrestlers in Juarez,” said Jose Ontiveros. “Hopefully in the future there will be more women wrestlers.”

Diana Ontiveros has been practicing during her spare time over the past three years. “My brothers love it and they actually brought me into it. They see it. They practice it. They made me love it too. I’m in volleyball at school, but every time I have a chance I come to practice so I can be ready to actually compete.”

Omar Ontiveros, a N.E.W. manager who has been wrestling for five years, said being a wrestler is a dream come true.

“When I was a little kid I used to see the big stars of the ring. I didn’t think it would be possible, because of my size. I’m not bulky. I feel proud now that I made it through.”

He said he was attracted by the colors of the masks, the way the wrestlers play their part as the rudos and técnicos, the faces of the kids when they see the luchador get into the ring.

N.E.W. events are open to the community at 318 N. Stevens in central El Paso. For further information you can contact N.E.W. at (915)740-5991 or find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/new.elpaso.

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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    Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso, Special Collections Department, Labor Advocate Records MS509

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