Open Letter to El Fuerte

By Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria

Dear estimado luchador El Fuerte,

I’ve tried to beat Street Fighter IV on easy mode with you,
and failed miserably.

I mean,
I’ve learned your moves.
Even though you don’t throw
any fireballs or projectiles
and you are shorter
than that Gremlin-looking Blanka,
that you and I know
is not from Brazil.

I know you got speed,
But how does that help you dodge
hadoukens, sonic booms, tiger uppercuts,
electricity, whirlwind kicks and hand slaps
coming at you at the speed of sound?

Let’s be real,
your handicap in real life would be at negative five.
The WWE won’t return your phone calls!

Did the game designers do any research into your name?

Did Babblefish not translate your name right?
Because El Fuerte means The Strong!

Yet, somehow you are a miniature luchador with a frying pan?
Who speaks gibberish for a language,
that is not Spanish or Nahuatl
or any indigenous language
I know because I checked on Wikipedia.
Whose grappling moves include
“the Habanero Dash”,
“Quesadilla Bomb”
“Guacamole Leg Throw”
“The Tostada Press”
and the “Fajita Buster”?
what the…???

That sounds more
like a Taco Bell menu
then grappling luchador moves
that honor
the tradition and history
of the mask
you should not be wearing.

Mr. Fuerte,
did it hurt your soul
when you agreed
to be depicted
in a form that
brings no honor to your name?
That insults the history of the luchador.

Did you forget that
the Aztecs, wore similar masks in battle?
That they believe
to this day
that their identity
is placed on their faces?
That when they wear a mask
it transforms them,
and gives them powers?

Our creators feel
that the mask
does not hide who you are,
but accentuates
the space that it creates,
and that itself
is an act of self love and recognition.
Which is what
our young brown children
are looking for.
What they need.
To find someone,
that resembles them
in pixels and T.V. screens.

Mr. Fuerte,
I challenge you
to channel
your inner Rey Mysterio Jr.
your inner Santo,
and see the
lineage of luchadores you come from.
Empower yourself
with the wisdom
and knowledge they provide.
So you can override
the computer programming,
grab the iron skillet
you were created with
and start swinging
at anything that stands
in your way,
all the identity
that was taken from you.
So when all children
ask to play the game
you are in,
they choose
a character
that fights against all odds,
that looks like them,
that understands
the importance
of the condor and eagle,
and uses the mask
as a way to empower
and identity.
Whose name
the exact translation
of who they should be:

Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria is a writer and spoken-word poet of Peruvian heritage heavily involved with Palabristas, a Minnesota-based Latin@ poets collective. He is a graduate of the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and an involved acivist in the Latin@ community. He writes about fatherhood; the duality of two cultures in English, Spanglish, and Spanish; and issues pertaining to his community and life experiences.