Lima, Peru's, unlikely superhero: Superman
Martin Mejia / Associated Press
Avelino Chavez, wearing his signature Superman costume, waves and greets riot police walking in formation toward a plaza where a protest was expected to take place Wednesday in downtown Lima, Peru. Chavez, 52, took on the Superman persona 15 years ago, when he lost his job as a security guard, and says he has had work ever since.
It only earns about $160 a month for Avelino Chavez, who dresses up daily as the caped hero.
But oh, the adventures!
The 52-year-old Chavez can't fly but does seem to be everywhere in Lima: at political rallies and speeches, at a wedding shoot for Peru's famed opera tenor Juan Diego Florez, hawking tours and flights on behalf of a travel agency in the central Plaza de Armas.
"Hola Superman!" people shout to him.
"Hola, Superamigo!" he'll shout back.
Chavez became a superhero 15 years ago after a failed go at bullfighting and jobs as a craftsman, laboratory worker and brothel security guard.
"I lost my job but realized that I could be Superman. I went to the store and bought a blue shirt and a cousin of mine who is a seamstress sewed the cape, the boots, the belt and the red tights," he told The Associated Press.
He hasn't lacked for work since.
One political party even asked him to run for Congress a decade ago. He agreed, but didn't win the seat.
Chavez says he tries to "maintain order in the city." In 2002, he says, he recovered a purse stolen from a woman by a thief.
"My Kryptonite is my security," he says, referring to the fictional element that is a weakness of the comic book character whose identity he's fused with his own.
As a younger man, Chavez said he sometimes dressed as Carlos Gardel, the Argentine crooner whose tangos "cut to the soul" or wore a beret that made him feel like the revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
But Superman proved the ticket to steady work.
Single and childless, Chavez lives in a rented apartment in a poor neighborhood in Lima's center.
He says he doesn't have a girlfriend.
"But when I get a girlfriend I would like to make love on the moon."
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