Mexican students at Washington State University are protesting the distribution of Lucha Libre-style masks at a recent football game. (Photo/Courtesy WSU Cougars Twitter)

Washington State University promotes football with Mexican Lucha Libre masks

Thursday night’s football game at Washington State University was memorable, if only because Mexican Lucha Libre-style masks were handed out as a promotion – a decision which provoked protest by members of the university’s Mexican student population.

WSU’s Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A) objected to the crimson and grey “Cougador” gear, protesting that the marketing promotion devalues Chicano/Latino identity.

“The luchador mask is an important cultural symbol to many Chicano/a Latino/a students on the Washington State University campus,” wrote M.E.Ch.A. members in a statement.  “This act of cultural appropriation is unacceptable and inconsistent with the values of WSU as an institution for higher education.”

Proceeding the Oct. 31 football game, M.E.Ch.A students asked Washington State Athletic Director Bill Moos to “reconsider his decision” to promote the event by handing out masks and capes emblazoned with the school’s mascot and “#GoCougs,” reports LatinoRebels.

But “after careful thought and consideration, I have decided to proceed with the Cougador promotion for tonight’s game” wrote Moss in an email to M.E.Ch.A coordinator Jose Camacho on Thursday.

So as a majority of WSU students attended the Halloween night game in mass – happily donning their Lucha Libre swag – M.E.Ch.A student group members participated in a rally to protest WSU Athletics’ decision.

“Hopefully this shows that the student voice is powerful at some extent,” Camacho told WSU’s campus paper, The Daily Evergreen. “I see this as an opportunity for administration to move forward and help us reach out to a larger community – whether it’s our alumni or future students.”

Other students – like Triny Alfaro – shrugged off the controversy, taking to the “Cougs against the ‘Cougador’” Facebook page to write comments like “I couldn’t be any happier that Cougador is still happening!”

“I’m a naturalized American – I was born in México City- and I can tell you right now that Mexican immigrants (If you don’t believe me, ask any of them) would not find this offensive at all,” wrote student Jose Luis Gonzalez. “Again, ask any Mexican immigrant, they will tell you – with a big smile – that our real culture goes way beyond a stupid mask that has been (barely) an icon of pop culture for the last 2 decades.”

The rally by M.E.Ch.A  members did garner response from WSU administration, with university president Elson S. Floyd stating that “he understood the group’s concerns,” reported the Daily Evergreen.

“I have an obligation to do everything I can to make this institution open and inviting and receptive to every student, faculty and staff that we have here,” Floyd told the student publication. “There’s a lot we can do together as we begin to talk about these types of issues into the future.”

What do you think? Is the use of the Lucha Libre mask offensive – or all in good fun?

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