Bolivia: Fighting Cholitas in the Spotlight

Female wrestling in El Alto, Bolivia, has captured the attention of locals and visitors for more than ten years. These women add a bit of tradition to this popular sport: where else would you see colorful skirts with petticoats, fringed shawls, thick braids and bowler hats battling it out in a ring?

Indigenous 'cholita' Bolivian women wrestlers. Image by cholita wrestling by Flickr user funkz CCBy (CC BY 2.0).

Indigenous 'cholita' Bolivian women wrestlers. Image by cholita wrestling by Flickr user funkz CCBy (CC BY 2.0).

Sara Shahriari and Tim Clayton have collaborated on the following video about Yolanda the Amorous, a female wrestler in El Alto, who despite her mother's concerns, climbs the ring to fight for her right to be more than what society deems “appropriate” for women.

From the video's description:

Yolanda la Amorosa is a member of the ‘Titans of the Ring’ wrestling group who perform every Sunday at El Alto's Multifunctional Centre. Bolivia. The wrestling group includes the fighting Cholitas, a group of Indigenous Female Lucha Libra wrestlers who fight the men as well as each other for just a few dollars appearance money every weekend. Yolanda lives with her her two daughters Adriana and Carmen in the hills overlooking La Paz. Bolivia.

(Version in Spanish available here)

Grace, who blogs on Pinay on the Move went to see the Cholitas in El Alto and wrote about it in Battle of the Skirts:

Then with one swift movement she turns away from the ring, places her hands on the top rope and climbs to the second rope. She proceeds to bounce on the rope until she began to throw her legs and body outwards. As this happens she releases her grip which sends her flying outwards and downwards on top of her opponent’s torso. The result was a puddle of petticoats and braids on the center of the ring.

I had just witnessed a corner slingshot splash from one of the Fighting Cholitas in Bolivia and I thought: “the battle of the petticoats is in full swing!”.

This following video shows a fighting cholita winning against a male wrestler:

Watching the female wrestlers in El Alto has become not only a pastime for locals but also a tourist attraction; the evidence is clear in the dozens of uploaded videos on YouTube featuring the cholitas.

Mike Powell writes in Bolivia for 91 days about his reactions on receiving “special treatment” when going to the arena:

By the time we took our seats, I was fairly annoyed. We had been redirected to the “foreigners line”, where tickets were over three times the regular price. Still only about $7, so no big deal. But upon entering the arena, we were told to sit in a special “foreigners” section. No thanks! Jürgen and I slid off to the side and sat down in the “regular” section next a couple young Bolivian wrestling fans, who peppered us with questions in between fights.

Nevertheless, it didn't dampen his enjoyment:

The Lucha Libre is a quintessential Bolivian experience, and we can highly recommend it. Neither of us expected to be so entertained… my stomach hurt from laughing so much. Although it’s clearly fake, the sight of women getting slapped around by men can be a little shocking, so dour feminists might want to stay away. But if you don’t mind a little violence with your humor, definitely check it out.

Thumbnail image of cholitas wrestling. Image by Flickr user jfjwak (CC BY 2.0).

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