The Great Scandal
uca woke up early the morning after meeting El Ciclón to admire the blue mask he had gifted her. In the dawn light, the mask seemed to glow with an inner, sparkly magic.
Suddenly, Luca realized that, in all the excitement, she had plumb forgotten to ask El Ciclón about the mummies and his real identity! But that could wait… the important thing now was that Diego was wrong. El Ciclón and Abuela had assured her of it: girls could wrestle.
Luca jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen, where Abuela and her mother were fixing breakfast for her brother and sister and packing a lunch for Mr. O’Reilly to take to work. Saturday was the day Luca’s father traveled to the nearby town of Cata to take the raya, or workers’ payment, to the mine foreman. Often he’d take Luca or one of her siblings with him and regale them with tales about how their great grandfather, Mr. Luca O’Reilly, had come all the way from Ireland to work at the mines there so, so many years ago… so long ago it was even before the stories Abuelita told about the Revolution. Luca had a hard time imagining anything or anyone was older than Abuelita.
“Ready to come with, Luca?” Mr. O’Reilly asked his daughter, as his wife handed him an itacate lunch neatly wrapped in a handkerchief. Normally, Luca loved hearing the stories about the great grandfather she had been nicknamed after when her official name, Luz, did not stick… but today she had a different matter on her mind.
“Actually,” said Luca, hoping she wouldn’t disappoint her father too much. “Can I come with you to the hostel instead, Ma?” She was anxious to see if she could catch any news on the radio of the famed female luchadoras who El Ciclón had assured her existed and were making such a stir in the Distrito Federal.
“Oh!” Mrs. Morales de O’Reilly said, a bit surprised that Luca would miss the opportunity to travel with her father, “Why of course! We could use an extra hand.” Luca’s mother would often assist her sister at the hostel with checking in guests, cooking, and cleaning while Luca’s father was at work.
For the next week, Luca made a point of accompanying her mother to the hostel as often as she could. This provided the perfect opportunity for Félix and Luca to sneak off to the combined lobby-dining room to listen to the radio, but they were disappointed to find that, most weekdays, the only thing broadcast was the boring radionovela Félix’s mom loved so much. Luca had also enlisted Félix to help her scour the newsstands for information on the luchadoras, but no new wrestling magazine issues had reached Guanajuato from the capital yet.
Even though news of the luchadoras was proving hard to dig up, Félix was pleased to see that Luca was back to her old self, ready to spar at a moment’s notice, and eager to sneak back into the semi-pro league fights on Fridays at Deportes Angélico, no longer really caring if Diego was there or not.
“In fact,” Luca suggested with a mischievous gleam in her eye on Thursday, “now that we don’t have school, why don’t we go see if we can watch the league train?”
“La Chiquita Picosa is back!” Félix shouted, pouncing on her and boxing her ears affectionately with his paws.
“Oh, stop it,” said Luca, flicking him away with her tail. But she blushed happily at his cheer of support.
They were on their way out to Deportes Angélico when they ran into Félix’s mom in the courtyard of the hostel. Mrs. Morales de Flores was carrying an enormous load of wet laundry and sheets to hang to dry.
“And just where do you think you’re going?” she asked the cousins.
“Ma, we’re just going to Deportes Angélico. We won’t be long!”
Mrs. Morales, who was usually pure sweetness but just as strict as her sister when it came to completing chores, chided them: “No no no, m’ijitos. Félix, I need your help hanging up the laundry. And your mother is looking for you, Luca.”
Luca sighed, but headed toward the kitchen, where her mother was making a huge portion of enchiladas mineras for the guest lunch. A few of the tourists and visiting university students who made up the regular guest list at the hostel were already poking their noses into the dining area to take in the delicious smells emanating from the kitchen.
“Ay, Luca. Good, good. Please help me dice the onions, you know how they make my eyes water.”
“But Ma, can Félix and me…”
“Félix and I,” corrected Mrs. Morales de O’Reilly. Luca sighed.
“Can Félix and I go to Deportes Angélico when we’re done?” asked Luca, rolling the “I” long enough to annoy her mother.
“Yes, of course. We finish the comida and then you can go. Your father and I are very proud of how well you did on your exams, Luca!”
After chopping onions, there were still carrots and potatoes to be diced. Luca applied herself to the task with the same speed and concentration she devoted to her wrestling moves, determined to make it to Angélico’s before the training was over. The mother and daughter duo was finally serving the guests the enchiladas, beautifully garnished with lettuce and ranchero cheese, when the radio crackled with an announcement:
“Dear listeners, please tune in after this exhilarating episode of our radionovela ‘Bird without a Nest’ for a special report: ‘Female Wrestling: Sport or Heresy?’”
The radio crackled once again and a long slew of perfume and cleaning product commercials blared throughout the room. Luca had stopped dead in her tracks, holding a plate of enchiladas just inches away from the watering mouth of a widower university professor who lived permanently at the hostel.
“Luca! Professor Cervantes!” her mother snapped.
Luca apologized profusely, gently placing the plate on the table. Professor Cervantes was a kindly old badger who often delighted Luca and Félix with stories of Guanajuato’s past, and he was Luca’s favorite guest.
The episode of the radionovela finally came to a titillating end and the special report on the luchadoras started just as Luca, Félix, Mrs. Morales de O’Reilly, and Mrs. Morales de Flores were sitting down to eat their meal. Professor Cervantes and a few other guests were still slowly savoring their dishes.
“Just when you thought you’d seen it all...” the radio host started, “This takes the cake! The Arena Modelo in the Distrito Federal is presenting a group of female luchadoras. Can you think of anything less appropriate than a woman fighting in a ring?” he asked his co-host.
“A luchador fighting in a ring throwing flowers and disorienting his opponent with kisses?” responded the co-host with a crude guffaw. “They have those now, too, you know!”
A loud clang rang out through the dining room. Félix blushed and scrambled to pick up the fork he had dropped.
“Wrestling is not an appropriate activity for a lady!” the host exclaimed, nervously attempting to steer the conversation away from gay exótico luchadores on his daytime radio program (you will remember, dear reader, that this was 1942 and the subject was still quite taboo at the time!). “Women should be the sanctuary of family values.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” the co-host said. “Of course… there’s nothing wrong with beautiful women participating as assistants to the presenters, don’t you think?”
With a sinking feeling in her stomach, Luca turned to see the shocked look on her mother’s face. Her tail was anxiously tap-tap-tapping on the floor and she was stealing embarrassed glances at Professor Cervantes and the other guests. It was no secret to anyone that Mrs. Morales de O’Reilly had always given Luca free rein to wrestle and play sports.
Oh dear, Luca thought. This does not bode well at all.