I am a video game player. There is no denying that. But I am also a father. So finding balance between family obligations and video games can be daunting at times. So I allow myself to buy one video game — at full retail price — a year. Well one year, I decided that the game I wanted was Street Fighter IV. I’ve been a big SF fan since SFII. My cousins and I would play that game to death in my uncle’s living room to the point that we were banished from the T.V.
I was extremely surprised that there was a character of Mexican heritage in the game, so that was another incentive for purchasing it. When I chose El Fuerte as my character, I was surprised that, well, he was shorter then Blanka, his quest is to find good recipes, really has no projectile moves, and, let’s be real, resembles a rejected understudy to Rey Mysterio Jr.
I tried giving it a chance. Probably dedicated 20+ hours trying to get his moves down — all grapples moves, by the way — and honestly, I was extremely disappointed. Not on the gameplay, but in the fact that the one time they feature a character that I could relate to, they make him as stereotypical as possible with no story to tell. It seems like they just threw him in the game just so they could say, “we have a brown character,” also known as tokenism. I tried to figure out if the language spoke was even Spanish (nope). Then I looked at his move list and cringed so badly, that I needed to do something about.
So I wrote this poem.
Open Letter to El Fuerte
Dear estimado Luchador El Fuerte,
I’ve tried to beat street fighter 4 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 probably shorter than that gremlin looking blanka,
that me and you know is not from brazil but belongs in one of the TMNT movies with Tokka and Rhazzar.
I mean, I know you got speed,
But how does that help you dodge hadukens, sonic booms, tiger uppercuts, electricity, whirlwind kicks and
hand slaps coming at you at the speed of sound?
Lets be real.
your handicap in real life would be at 5.
the street credit you would hold would be less than blank man!
the WWE still doesn’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 strong!
Yet somehow you are a miniature luchador with a frying pan?
Who speaks gibberish for a language,
that is not 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”?
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 spits in the face of 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, gives them powers only 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 lcd screens.
i challenge you to channel your inner Rey Mysterio Jr.
your inner Santo,
and like the last airbender, 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 like Thor swings his hammer.
Reclaiming all the space that was taken from you.
So when my children ask to play the game you are in.
They choose a character that fights against all odds.
That looks like them.
That understand the importance of the condor and eagle.
Uses the mask as a way to empower self love and identity.
Whose name reflects the exact translation of who they should be.
You can listen to more of Rodrigo’s work by visiting rscspokenword.bandcamp.com