Best Place to Watch Lucha Libre in Action 2010 | Gladiadores Unidos, Fridays, 7 p.m. | La Vida | Phoenix

El Pakal is one tough-looking hombre. Not only is he ripped from head to toe, but his face is hidden by a gold wrestling mask and his torso is painted with Aztec symbols. Is he loco? Nah, just a participant in lucha libre (Mexican-style wrestling). Pakal is a member of Gladiadores Unidos, a local group that holds matches every Friday at a converted South Phoenix warehouse, and also a rudo (bad guy) whose main goal in the ring is to beat the crap outta the technicos (good guys). For those who're unfamiliar with lucha, here's a brief primer, wey: Originating in Mexico and similar in most respects to the WWE, lucha features faster, higher-flying action that's a little different from what you see on Monday Night Raw. First of all, many Mexican-style wrestlers wear colorful masks. Also, the action takes place in three-on-three tag-team matches that involve a whirlwind of action that often spills into the audience. Gladiadores Unidos is one of three lucha groups in Phoenix and is, by far, the best. Its characters are more over the top (a wrestler dressed as a cat) and humorous. Don't worry if you're not bilingual, because the action is easy to follow. Just stay outta the first three rows.

Best Place to Get a Spider-Man Piñata

Mundo Piñata

How can cardboard boxes, busted balloons, sticky and shredded pieces of newspaper, and brightly colored tissue paper jazz up a child's birthday party? When they're used to create a custom piñata, of course!Sure, you can go with the stock piñatas — donkeys or bears with stiff, outstretched arms — hanging from the rafters of your local Mexican market. But the artists — and they are artists — at Mundo Piñata are ready, willing, and more than able to bring to life your birthday boy or girl's favorite superhero, cartoon character, or Disney fantasy.If you give them a picture of, say, Peppa Pig or a classic princess, a racecar or an image of Spider-Man leaping through the air, they will make it happen.The tiny, neatly organized shop also has a few shelves of Mexican candy and trinkets that you can stuff into the artfully handcrafted piñata — just before the children take a stick and pummel the goodies right out of it.

A while back, the Mexican government commissioned a comic book covertly instructing illegal aliens how to cross the Mexico/Arizona border. The Guide for the Mexican Migrant depicts "illegal aliens" crossing the Rio Grande and dodging border patrol agents, and spells out crafty ways to hide out among gringos once they're here. Wee-hoo!

Despite its cunning claim that the comic is about legally immigrating, it's actually a carefully crafted caveat about how to survive while you're on your way and what your rights are once you get here, regardless of your legal residency status. Printed by Mexico's Foreign Ministry, the Gold Key Comic-like story of a group of "migrants" is told in simple, colorful panels that make baddies of the Border Patrol agents and describes ways for brown people to hide in plain sight among Phoenicians. The comic has been removed from the Mexican government's website, but a copy is still stashed here, and the Internet has been ablaze with commentaries, both pro and con. (An English text-only translation appears here.) We think this super comic deserves a round of applause.

See: a video interview with Santiago Gonzalez.

Santiago Gonzalez is one of the good guys, and not just because his family produces 3 Amigos Tequila — a delicious, smooth tequila made exclusively from blue agaves untouched by pesticides.

Sure, the taste rivals any of the top-shelf tequila brands out there — and costs way less — but Gonzalez isn't my hero for that. Well, not just that. He's the kind of guy who cares about integrity, hard work, and above all else, family.

Attitudes like his are in short supply these days.

Gonzalez was just a boy when he moved to Phoenix from Mexico in 1968. In the mid-'80s, he and his brothers started G Farms with 200 acres on which to grow watermelons, onions, potatoes, corn, and alfalfa. Now, they farm more than 4,000 acres and have a couple of side businesses — including a family-owned distillery in the Mexican state of Jalisco, where they handcraft and bottle 3 Amigos Tequila.

His family's business ventures have suffered with the economic downtown, but he forges on, confident that better times are ahead.

"It isn't about the money," Gonzalez says. "It's about a good quality product. My father would always tell us that you don't want to die rich. You want to live rich." — Monica Alonzo

New Times staff writer Monica Alonzo, who swore off tequila until she met the three amigos, interviewed Santiago Gonzalez on August 14 at his El Mirage ranch.

I love Phoenix because this is where we came in when we came from Mexico. I was 11 years old. I fell in love with the state. This is home.

When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up and become a pilot. But here I am. I am a farmer and a tequila maker.

While I am driving, I think about all my family and I thank God, mainly because of everything we have and all our blessings.

Phoenix could use more tequila, for sure. And could be a little easier on Mexicans.

Phoenix could use less crime and a lot less prejudice.

You know you've had too much tequila when you start talking too much.

Never drink tequila without your three friends.

My favorite crop is, believe it or not, watermelons. Second is agave.

I love the smell of wet dirt, because I'm a farmer and the dirt is God's gift and we eat off the dirt. The land feeds us.

I would love to spend the whole day with my wife.

My hero is my father. He was a man who had a lot of foresight, and he had a lot of love for people. He was a wonderful man.

Right before I go to bed, I thank God for my family and for friends and for all the blessings.

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