Cholita Wrestling – the tough ladies of La Paz

by on 31st October, 2014

Cholita Wrestling – the tough ladies of La Paz

So you think you are tough? Read on to find out about Kat’s recent encounter with the female Cholita Wrestlers of La Paz, where she met some truly feisty ladies.


Kat writes: 

“I was picked up at my La Paz hotel for Sunday afternoon entertainment of a different kind. We were off to see the famous cholitas of La Paz…wrestling. And I was not the only one interested, the bus was full!

But let me give you a bit more background info first. Cholitas are female Aymara and Quequa women – Bolivia’s largest indigenous population. You will easily spot them by their bowler hats. For centuries cholitas had been discriminated in Bolivia’s society – not only were they indigenous, they were women, too.

But thanks to recent changes the role of the cholita is changing more and more. They have fast become one of the most influential groups of La Paz, being in charge of street stalls and small businesses and powerful matriarchs of their families.


Challenging the men, and stereotypes

They are continuing to fight for more power and rights – and have entered the male world in many areas. Male wrestling had long been popular in La Paz but in their strive for equal rights, Cholitas have now claimed their spot in the previously male dominated spectacle.

Every Sunday afternoon wrestling shows take place in El Alto, high above La Paz downtown.

Our bus was winding its way up the steep slopes through the bustling neighbourhoods until we reached a sports hall – a rather basic construction, in the midst of which a wrestling ring had been erected.

Front row seats were reserved for us (yes, I did slightly cringe at that as I sat in my “VIP” seat) and popcorn was served. What wasn’t provided were blankets so take my advice and wrap up warm!!


Traditional costume

I have never watched wrestling before and I’ll be honest – I probably won’t feel the need to again. But it was fun. Tacky and at times pretty bad, but definitely fun.

First on were the men to give me my first taste of wrestling. Then the Cholitas who we all had been waiting for made their entrance. Unlike the men who were fighting in typical wrestling attire (think mummies, superheroes, tight pants), the Cholitas stick to their traditional costume – except for the shawl and bowler hats.

But that was where the main difference lay. Other than that they were as fast, furious and skilled as their male counterparts. They were throwing themselves around the ring, jumping on top of each other, pulling, throwing, falling, rolling, screaming.


Lapping it up

The audience was loving it. Little kids were going crazy and there was more and more shouting as the evening went on.

A boy next to me gave me all the insider info on each of the fighters – it was clear that he spent most Sundays in this place!

Personally I was torn between admiration, amusement, bewilderment and sheer disbelief. Those ladies (is that the right word for female wrestlers?) were feisty indeed. It gave emancipation a whole new meaning!

Now, as I said before, I didn’t convert me into a big wrestling fan and there was something slightly odd about sitting in a freezing cold wrestling “arena”, listening to the over-the-top announcements of the commentators (gosh, they were beyond excited!) and watching men and women fly around in a staged (oh yes, they say the blood is real!) wrestling show.


A show of defiance

But I did appreciate the meaning behind it all, and what it meant for the women involved.

Another step towards equal rights and doing what they see as their bit towards changing the fate and future of Cholitas. And I can only imagine that it took some guts to stand up and get involved and prove to their male counterparts that they were capable of these things, too.

So if you fancy doing something a little different while on La Paz, and are up for a bit of a laugh, then this may well be for you.

I will share some photos with you on our lovely Facebook so you can take a look for yourself.



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