Published March 21, 2008
There's a new masked man in California who promises to be the hero of undocumented workers — if only they can get over his offensive name.
Super Mojado — Super Wetback, if you translate the Spanish slur — is a new Mexican wrestler making his debut Saturday in Van Nuys, Calif., to help raise money for some of the more than 100 undocumented workers busted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last month.
"We decided to make a hero that would be for all the people that don't have papers," said Joseph Medina, a wrestling promoter and the character's creator. He said Super Mojado's role is to educate the public.
Super Mojado will wrestle Ronnie K, an unmasked white man, and Viper, who is a masked traitor to his Latino brothers. The pair make up the evil tag team "INS" or "Irresistible Notorious Studs," a not-so-subtle play on the federal immigration agency formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The wrestlers, or luchadores, are part of New Tradition Wrestling, a league that fights in the Mexican "lucha libre" style. Masked characters in spandex pants fly from the ropes in acrobatic feats that are strung together by dramatic side stories of betrayal and honor.
"My quest in life is to deport Super Mojado — to get rid of him," Ronnie K said with a bit of wrestling bravado. "Because there's not enough room for him and I in the United States."
When Super Mojado takes to the ring for an immigration smackdown against a fellow countryman and an American who wants him out, it won't be just a night of entertainment. The goal, said promoter Medina, is to turn stereotypes upside-down, while helping immigrants learn about their rights.
"There's a lot of laws, there's a lot of penal codes that people don't know to defend them and help them," said Medina, who is Mexican-American. "We're trying to have this character educate all of us."
Medina dreamed up Super Mojado after ICE agents raided Micro Solutions Enterprises, a computer-printer cartridge factory in Van Nuys, on Feb. 7 and arrested 138 people on a variety of immigration charges. The raid made big headlines in this Los Angeles neighborhood.
About 500 people are expected to attend the event, with tickets selling at $10 for adults and $5 for children. Medina said the proceeds will help the workers awaiting immigration hearings who have been unable to pay their rent since their arrests.
Super Mojado wears the flags of Spanish-speaking nations, abides by the motto "Hero for the Latin Community" and carries that racially charged name.
Medina settled on the slur — "that's what a lot of the people refer to us like" — after hearing that ICE agents had used it when separating the workers during the raid.
That's simply not true, said Virginia Kice, an ICE spokeswoman.
"When we went into that factory we sought to group workers according to their status — we segregated U.S. citizens, people who had green cards and then people who did not have any appropriate authorization," she said.
"But we would not refer to anybody in that vernacular — that's not an appropriate term," she continued. "It's like so many things associated with professional wrestling — it's all hyperbole and myth."
Eight people were arrested on criminal charges and 130 — including 87 Mexicans — were picked up on immigration violations during the factory raid. The vast majority have been released pending immigration hearings, Kice said.
Super Mojado and INS sound like "a tasteless exploitive publicity stunt," she said.
"INS no longer exists, so that just shows you how realistic this contest is," Kice said.
Medina said 90 percent of the people who attend his wrestling events are of Latino descent, and the characters are geared toward them.
"You go there and yell at the wrestlers," he said. "And you get your stresses out."