Mexican wrestlers bring anti-bullying message to Arlington YMCA after-school program
BY PATRICK M. WALKER
The sign on the wall near an entrance to the school gym at Mary Moore Elementary reads, “Bullying: Acting in ways that scare or harm another person or their property.” Despite their intimidating looks, the two surprise visitors to the YMCA of Arlington’s after-school program on Friday know just how painful bullying can be. They were masked luchadores, or Mexican wrestlers.
The presentation, complete with a short demonstration of wrestling skills, was part of an anti-bullying campaign by the Lucha Libre USA’s Masked Warriors Live United We Stand Tour. The young children listened quietly as Mini Park, dressed in a skeletal costume, related in Spanish how he was picked on as a child in Monterrey, Mexico.
“He got bullied because of his height,” coordinating producer Veronica Salinas said, translating Mini Park’s story. “He got called really nasty names.” After he told his parents of the situation, they contacted his school, which set up a meeting with the parents of the child who was doing the bullying, he said. “He encourages everyone that if you’re having a problem with bullying, speak out. Speak to an adult,” Salinas said. “Bullying is hurtful. The biggest thing is that you have to say something, because if you don’t, it’s not going to stop.”
Then it was Lizmark Jr.’s turn. He’s the son of a famous luchadore and was bullied because other children assumed that he would know his father’s moves. “He was afraid to tell his father because he looked at his father as his hero,” Salinas said. “His fear was that his father would be ashamed.” But he finally got up the nerve to tell his dad, who reassured him that he wasn’t disappointed and contacted the principal to deal with the situation.
The luchadores and their production team also visited the Y’s after-school programs at Miller Elementary a few miles away in southwest Arlington. Since the tour started in March, luchadores have been visiting schools to raise awareness of a problem reported by about one-third of students ages 12 to 18, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. To tackle this prominent issue early in childhood, luchadores are speaking at elementary schools, after-school programs and other youth organizations.
A reported 15 percent of students who don’t show up for school report it to being out of fear of being bullied. Seventy-one percent of students report bullying as an ongoing problem, and a new study from the Yale School of Medicine found a strong connection between being bullied and suicide. Afterward, Salinas made the children pledge to avoid bullying. “I promise that bullying is going to stop!” they shouted in unison after her prompt.
Their reward was a demonstration on tumbling mats set up on the gym floor. Though shorter and lighter, Mini Park proved that he was Lizmark Jr.’s equal, and the children loved every minute of the match.
Patrick Walker, 682-232-4674 Twitter: @patrickmwalker1