Mexico’s dwarf wrestlers overcome mockery to become stars

‘Microstars’ is a show that mixes sport, circus and collective catharsis in what Mexicans call “fights”
He is just 90 centimetres (less than three feet) tall, but he packs muscles, power and swagger in a little frame: meet Microman, the smallest star in Mexican professional wrestling. Mexico’s “lucha libre,” a wildly popular mix of sport and entertainment, long featured midgets and dwarves in a deeply demeaning role: they were “mascotas” — a word that can mean both “mascot” and “pet” — for full-size wrestlers. But a new generation of little people are now rising lucha libre stars in their own right, and dream of one day headlining the main events on their fight cards. Microman wowed a skeptical crowd at one recent bout in Mexico City, where he and two co-stars, El Gallito and Guapito, took on another team of small-sized wrestlers. He and his fellow “Micro Stars” were met with a smattering of jeers when they got in the ring. But Microman silenced them when he climbed onto the top rope — more than three times his height — to execute a high-flying leap straight into the neck of his also small, but larger, rival. He then flattened another with an acrobatic headstand kick known as the “Zero Gravity” move. The audience went wild in Arena Mexico, the high cathedral of lucha libre.
Headstand on rope
But just having his name on the billing shows the progress he and other little wrestlers have made since his father’s time. Microman is the son of Kemonito, who was also a midget wrestler but had a very different career. Working conditions and the level of respect have improved dramatically since then in the Mexican professional wrestling league, the World Lucha Libre Council (CMLL), says Catalina Gaspar, an activist for little people’s rights. “They train them professionally now. I’ve been really happy to see that. Twenty years ago, they threw them in the ring with wrestlers who were two meters (more than 6’6”) tall, and they got injured a lot,” Gaspar said. Kemonito’s generation had no health insurance or benefits, but put up with the job for lack of other options, she said. “Some of them were paralyzed… One even committed suicide,” she said.
“But now they are seen as idols, not mascots or buffoons.”
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