Cholita Wrestling La Paz. One of the joys of travel is witnessing local dress. And visitors to Bolivia will immediately note the unique style of many Bolivian women. A high bowler hat, a puffy skirt, and long braided hair. These are the Cholitas. These Cholitas are indigenous women from the Aymara and Quechua groups of the Andes. And until recently, Cholitas were often discriminated against, being refused entry to restaurants and taxis, and not even allowed to walk freely in the Plaza Murillo, where the presidential plaza is located. Cholitas were firmly placed in the lower castes of society, often playing the role of domestic servant or street hawker in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. But thankfully in recent years, their status has been rising.
Bolivian Lucha Libre’s history can be traced to the 1950s. This form of wrestling is better known in Mexico, where it was developed in the mid-19th century. You might be aware of this wrestling with the crazy masks. But Bolivia devised its own unique twist on Lucha Libre.
Cholita wrestling. The name is a bit self-evident. Take one-part World Wrestling Entertainment, one-part off-the-strip Vegas show, mixed with a heavy dollop of Cholitas and the result is Cholita wrestling. An extremely fun and cheesy evening with some impressive athleticism.
In a warehouse, a wrestling ring with an adjacent stage is set up next to a set of bleachers. Surrounding the ring are a series of seats which seem to be populated solely by foreigners. The bleachers are filled with animated locals, clearly excited for the pending entertainment.
Music is blasted through the tinny speakers, while the announcer peps up the audience for the pending fight. A light is aimed at the curtain on the stage. A Cholita pops her head out, donning, of course, her bowler hat.
Bowler hats arrived on the scene in Bolivia in the 1920s, when some British entrepreneurs planned to sell these hats to British rail workers who were working in Bolivia. When the hats arrived in South America, the entrepreneurs were disappointed to learn that the hats were too small for the train workers. These Shark Tank like go-getters decided to rebrand the bowler hats and began to market the hats as the latest European female fashion. Despite the fact that this marketing campaign was based on pure fiction, the hats caught on. And a century later, they are now part of the culture and national costume.
The Cholita in her frilly skirt, known as a pollera, swirls and dances, trying to psyche out her opponent. The Cholita spends time smiling and spinning as she weaves near the foreigners in the VIP section. Her opponent comes out next, and repeats the exercise.
The bell rings, and Cholitas circle each other, and the wrestling begins. Reminiscent of a WWE match, the hero and villain start their dance. Backbreakers, chokeslams, facebusters, are mixed in with piledrivers, superkicks, and bodyslams. The major difference, are the Cholitas dressed in their traditional outfits.
The Cholitas don’t hold back. Diving from the top rope. Slamming their bodies onto the cold cement. And diving over the chairs of the nearby spectators. The crowd ooooed and awwwed. Yelled and taunted. And laughed. Not surprisingly, the refs were just as involved in the fighting as the Cholitas.
After multiple cards, the evening comes to a close. (Some of the cards were male wrestlers, but not as interesting as the Cholitas.) The crowd is satiated. The Cholitas take a final bow and the crowd files out.
Buy your tickets through Red Cap Tours and they will take care of all of the details. The tickets are only $13. Matches are on Sunday and Thursday nights.
And read about the amazing Salar de Uyuni here.
Disclaimer: I was an invited guest of Red Cap Tours. The opinions expressed are my own. And you should really go see Cholita wrestling, it is a lot of fun!
Cholita Wrestling La Paz