He was called ‘El Cocodrilo’ – The Crocodile because of his signature move – the crocodile roll. He would snap his strong arms and legs around his unsuspecting opponent, pin him to the ground and roll, locking him in this position until the poor man admitted defeat. El Cocodrilo was one of the deadliest and most respected luchadors in all of Oaxaca. He was a legend, an enigma, and according to Oaxacan lore, he was thought to be the Red Demon (one of the deadliest luchadors of all time in Mexico), reincarnated.
His mask did perfect justice to his luchador name. A green face with red and black around the eyes and sharp teeth in place of his mouth. If the name didn’t evoke enough fear, his mask would certainly do it. It covered most of his face, so nobody really knew what expression it bore. The crocodile was known to be a man of very few words. His only confidant was his manager, Señor Ramirez.
Lately, Señor Ramirez had noticed that The Crocodile was unable to focus during his training sessions. He had even missed going to the gym twice in a week, which was very unlike him. Some important matches were coming up soon and since there was a lot of money riding on The Crocodile, he couldn’t afford to be so negligent with his training. Perhaps a little break would do him good, thought Mr. Ramirez. A day or two at the nearby beach, sea breeze in his hair, some good food and he would surely be back rejuvenated and ready to fight.
The Crocodile agreed to this idea of a mini-vacation. He wouldn’t be too far from home if Mr. Ramirez needed him. He felt himself relax as soon as he saw the ocean. He decided to go to his favorite seafood shack for lunch. The grilled trout there always reminded him of his abuela’s fine cooking. He relished the first few morsels when suddenly he started coughing and gagging. A pesky little fish bone had lodged itself in his throat. He tried to down it with some cerveza but in vain. The locals tried to relieve him but it kept getting worse. The crocodile was now out of breath, rapidly moving towards asphyxia when someone suggested removing his constricting face mask so he could breathe.
The crocodile vigorously shook his head to show disagreement but nobody took notice. They briskly untied his mask. The bone, its mission now complete, chose that exact moment to let go and The Crocodile was saved. For one soothing moment, he sighed in relief but soon realized that his mask was off and people were staring at him with shock written all over their faces. It was Pedro, the local idiot! He had run away from home when he was 13 and the locals had given up after many unsuccessful efforts to find him. His mother had died shortly after, stricken by grief.
Pedro was an innocent kid who had been traumatized as a child for being slow. The bullying and teasing had not stopped even when he entered his teenage years. One day, he decided he had had enough and ran away from home in the middle of the night with just one change of clothes and a few pesos in his pocket. He took a few odd jobs and then one day, the kindly Señor Ramirez had spotted him, taken him under his wing and eventually had transformed him into the luchador legend he was today.
The people were shocked but mostly amazed at this transformation. They had newfound respect for Pedro now. And suddenly, Pedro didn’t feel naked without his mask. He felt different, confident. He liked how the breeze caressed his face and he came upon the pleasant realization that he didn’t need to hide anymore. He had made his fortune all by himself and he was proud. His mom would have been too and she would have wanted this freedom for him. His tormentors couldn’t touch him anymore! A happiness that comes only with liberation engulfed him and he smiled after a really long time. Everybody cheered. El Cocodrilo was mortal after all!