Like some kind of Lucha Libre Batman, a superhero for the 21st century is patrolling the streets of Mexico City and protecting its citizens, while dressed as a Mexican wrestler.
Peatónito, aka. ‘Pedestrian Man’, grapples with cars as he fights for safer streets in the nation’s capital, alongside other traffic safety activists.
He’s been at it since 2012 and his actions have saved countless lives and his efforts have helped encourage increasing numbers of people to travel more efficiently by walking.
Three years ago, the big man appeared, armed with a copy of the highway code and a white aerosol can to spray zebra crossings and pavements where there were none, which is a bit more effective than those adverts featuring a cartoon hedgehog which we had in the UK!
The results of Peatónito’s actions, although they may look a bit crazy on the surface, have actually been incredible. In August, Mexico City’s government presented a new set of road traffic regulations with reduced speed limits on main roads from 70km/h to 50km/h.
And, considering that in Mexico City, 52 accidents in every 1,000 are fatal – much higher than the national average – the changes are a very big deal, indeed.
The man behind the mask, Jorge Cáñez, is a 29-year-old political scientist who works for the government, but two days a week he takes to the street in his full pro-wrestling gear, stopping cars with his bare hands, helping pedestrians to cross the street safely, and generally being a road safety badass.
Speaking to the Guardian, he explained his actions:
In Mexico City, just moving from A to B is the most hazardous, complicated and inefficient thing imaginable. When I was a student, I told myself: ‘I’m not going to rest until I find out the reason why public transport from my house to university is so bad, and until I find a solution’.
Lucha Libre is deep-rooted in Mexican life, but the idea [for Peatónito] came to me the day I took a few foreign friends along to see a fight. If we’ve had Superbarrio (another Mexican self-claimed superhero who fought causes on behalf of the city’s lower classes in the 1990s), why can’t we imagine the street as a wrestling ring?
I do it all for the love of art, to do something for the city. Financially speaking, Peatónito hasn’t earned me more than the fee for a few talks and a couple of trips. That’s it. The best thing is the satisfaction of communicating a message in a powerful way.
Peatónito and his team are now campaigning to try and convince the government to dedicate more of the transportation budget to projects related to pedestrians or bicycles. The masked man and his mates have already been out on their bikes, in full Lucha Libre gear, to spread the word about their latest cause.
What an awesome guy. We’re admittedly slightly disappointed that Peatónito has never cracked out a Mexican surfboard or a topé suicida to take down speeding drivers but his work of holding back cars with his bare hands is probably impressive enough!