South America Living

Cholitas Luchadoras – Sports in Bolivia

One of Bolivia´s Cholitas Luchadoras in Action!

Editor´s Note: This is a guest post by Peru For Less

Brightly-colored fabrics flying through the air. Headlocks, kicking, hair pulling, chair throwing. Twisting and spinning. Blood. Screaming fans.

The above may make you think of America’s World Wrestling Entertainment, but there are no light shows or million-dollar television productions here. This is Bolivia’s Cholitas Luchadoras, a tough female wrestling sport fought while wearing traditional clothing.

Also known as lucha libre, freestyle female wrestling has gained popularity in conservative Bolivia with indigenous women known as cholitas the stars of the ring. In the impoverished city of El Alto, Bolivia, female fighters chant phrases like “women on top, men below” and “I’m the prettiest, you’re all ugly!” and the audience loves it.

In many countries female wrestlers are overshadowed by the men, but in Bolivia the women are the main event. For centuries, Spanish colonists and indigenous patriarchs oppressed cholitas by denying them education and limiting them to child-rearing and manual labor; yet with the help of President Evo Morales – Bolivia’s first indigenous leader – times are changing.

Morales has championed the rights of the Aymara and Quechua communities with several cholitas now occupying official posts in the Bolivian government and judicial systems. There is still a great deal of prejudice, violence, and lack of educational opportunities for women in Bolivia, yet cholitas continue to fight in the ring and for their rights.

How the Sport of Cholitas Luchadoras Came to Be

Victorious Cholita

Cholitas Luchadoras was made popular by Juan Mamani, a lucha libre wrestler. His dream was to create a Bolivian school of wrestling heroes similar to those in Mexico. In 2001, he decided to teach women to wrestle as well, in an effort to increase popularity for the sport. Wearing traditional clothing such as long, multilayered skirts, shawls, pumps, and bowler hats women took to the ring and the fans started pouring in.

These tough fighters are the same ladies you will see selling food and clothes in the local markets while taking care of their children.
In addition to their day jobs, the women train hard alongside men, lifting weights, climbing mountains, practicing half-nelson holds, piledrives and other moves.

Fans pay $1 USD per person to watch for a few hours (wrestlers are paid between $20 – $30 USD a match) every Sunday, showing their devotion by shouting and cheering. They also throw food at wrestlers if they don’t like what they see, with the wrestlers often returning the favor by throwing it back.

The events attract over 1,000 spectators to El Alto, and hundreds attend when the fighters travel to smaller towns. The sport continues to grow in popularity, and gives Bolivian women the chance to enjoy their hobby while being appreciated for agility and strength.

This article comes from Peru For Less, a travel company specializing in Peru vacations and Bolivia tours.

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