That Time I Was Mistaken For A Luchador

How three key ingredients led me to being questioned in an airport in Mexico and had me quickly re-evaluating my career choices moving forward.

I used to travel very frequently as an Account Manager for a microbiology company. I primarily traveled around my sales territory covering most of the Rocky Mountain states and the mid-west, but every so often I was able to travel to other, more exotic places for a conference or kick-off meeting. One year our company decided to hold our annual kick-off meeting in Cancún, Mexico. Fairly routine I’d say for your modern salesperson, so let’s spice up this situation with three key back story elements. Let’s call them ingredients in this salsa of a story.

I am also a guitarist. Since I was about 14 years old I have had a beautiful relationship with what my guitar instructor described as “the most important ‘woman’ in your life”. When I was about 21 years old I found that to be completely false when I met my soon-to-be, and now, wife. Nevertheless, I am very fond of my guitar. I still worry about my guitar instructor’s long term happiness and social skills.

The year prior to our sales meeting in Cancún I had become acquainted with several co-workers who were also musicians. We threw around the idea of forming a company band and, with the blessing of our executive management and marketing teams, found ourselves being asked to perform during our meeting to pump up the sales reps. Ok. I am now traveling to Mexico with my guitar. We now have Ingredient #1.

In between my freshman and sophomore years at college I had the pleasure of living in Santiago, Chile for a time. I was serving a religious mission and as a result of this experience I was able to become quite fluent in Spanish. Certainly a helpful skill and I was excited to find opportunities to use it while heading down for our sales conference. Welcome Ingredient #2.

The day before the meeting I flew down to Cancún from Denver, CO. I knew the drill as we shuffled through security and customs after gathering our baggage at the airport. A customs officer called me out of the security line and, in Spanish, told me she needed to look through my bags. (Side note here; for any of you who have learned a second language, an odd thing happens to your brain. You find that at some point you no longer need to translate things in your head. You just have what seems to be two brains. Language-A Brain and Language-B Brain and they just kind of turn on and off depending on which language you are working with). I was certain I was being called out because I was carrying a fairly large suitcase and a big guitar case. So, I complied while Language-B Brain quickly kicked in. Translated from Spanish, the discussion went something like this…

Customs Agent: “Why are you visiting Mexico?”

Me: “I am here for a meeting and a performance.”

Customs Agent: Ignoring my guitar case completely and now digging through my suitcase. “Ok. How long will you be here?”

Me: “About a week.”

Customs Agent: Calling over to another agent, “Hey, can you come over here?”

Other Agent: Looks through my suitcase and then looks at me. “Who are you?”

Me: “I’m Dustin Walker.”

First Customs Agent: Leaning in very close and whispering, “No, who are you?” She glances down. I now notice they are both looking at a Mexican luchador mask sitting in my suitcase. It was a souvenir I had purchased while on a cruise to Cozumel years before. It was a nicer one and I thought it would be a fun thing to use during a team building exercise I was scheduled to help with during our Cancún meeting. Ingredient #3.

I looked at the mask. I looked at the agents. Here’s some guy waltzing into the country, speaking Spanish, carrying a guitar, and a luchador mask. I asked myself, “What is the worst that could happen if I am found lying to these agents?” Myself didn’t answer fast enough so I just rolled with it.

Me: “Well, I don’t want to make a scene or anything but I’m known as El Asesino Barbudo (Bearded Assassin. Not bad eh?)”

They seemed truly starstruck. We chatted for several minutes and they ultimately asked for an autograph and a photo. As I left the encounter, a strange feeling was brewing inside. Do you remember that scene in Nacho Libre when Nacho is trying his hardest to explain why lucha libre is wrong and should be avoided?

For that brief moment going through airport security in Cancún, I tasted celebrity. I understood where Nacho was coming from. I wanted my fancy cremes and lotions. It felt like I was a superhero and a couple of people had figured out my secret identity, but we were all cool with it. Maybe, just maybe, I could hop on a totally different taxi and start living the dream of pile driving others in the face. I went to the conference instead.

To this day I’m not 100% certain they weren’t just playing with me as well, but I like to think that somewhere in Mexico right now are two customs agents who occasionally pull out their selfie with El Asesino Barbudo. One day they’ll show the photo to their grandchildren and say, “ Gather round niños. Come sit at my feet as I tell you about the time I met a luchador fantástico. Actually, come to think of it, I haven’t heard his name since. He must have been the absolute worst. Never mind. Forget everything I said. Run off now and play.”