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World

Mexican Wrestlers Are Sewing Lucha Libre Masks To Protect People From The Coronavirus

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

As the world fights to defeat the coronavirus, a professional wrestler in Mexico has found a way to use his special skills in the battle. And as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, he's making a profit.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: The wrestler's nom de guerre is Hijo del Soberano, the sovereign's son. He won't reveal his real name.

HIJO DEL SOBERANO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Professional luchadores - or wrestlers - keep their identities secret, he told me. Up until last month, he was making a good living on the Lucha Libre circuit, Mexico's version of freestyle wrestling. Four nights a week, he would suit up in his green-and-gold Lycra leggings and matching character mask for bouts in his hometown, Torreon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: That's, of course, until the pandemic hit. The wrestling arena was shuttered. He not only lost wages from the canceled matches. His side gig dried up, too. Hijo del Soberano and his wife sew costumes and the colorfully intimidating masks the luchadores wear.

HIJO DEL SOBERANO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: We make everything for the Lucha Libre experience here at our workshop, he says. Collectors around the world buy their wares, which can fetch up to $200. Hijo del Soberano says about a week or two into the lockdown, he started getting desperate. They couldn't pay bills or buy food. It was his wife who suggested they put their sewing machines to use and make surgical-style masks to guard against the virus.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Early one morning, she says she heard a noise coming from their sewing room. When she woke up, she found he had sewn several different types.

HIJO DEL SOBERANO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: I just altered my skills a bit, he says, and made the masks from the nose to the chin. The coverings have all the details and flair of his full-face designs and pay homage to Mexico's most famous luchadores, like El Santo's silver mask, a blue-and-white covering similar to Blue Demon's and, of course, his own green-and-gold design. The masks may not scare off the virus, but sales are off the charts. Hijo del Soberano is making more than 200 a week now.

HIJO DEL SOBERANO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: We're not lacking for money anymore, he says. We just need more hands to make more masks.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

(SOUNDBITE OF PASSION PIT SONG, "THE REELING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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