The Fighting Cholitas

by Ekua on October 15, 2009 in Bolivia

August 2, 2009

At breakfast, I was joined by a guy who was my dorm mate one night in Cusco, on my bus the previous day, and now at the same hostel as me in La Paz. Oh, the gringo trail. He told me that a few days before, he was hassled while using the Peru-Bolivia border crossing that’s known for being shady. By the time he got past the border officials, his bus had left him and his luggage was still on it. He got into a taxi and asked the driver to go as quickly as possible until they caught up with the bus and flagged it down!

Llama fetuses at the Witches' MarketLlama Fetuses at the Witches’ Market

I spent much of the day wandering the streets of La Paz. I found the Witches’ Market which is not really a market. It’s a few stalls at the end of street of tourist shops. But there definitely are folk remedies and figurines and llama fetuses for sale there. Llama fetuses are naturally aborted and some Bolivians bury them under new homes to bring good luck.

Witches' MarketWitches Market

At lunchtime I sat at a cafe facing the window and looked out at the  strange  and wonderful city of La Paz. It’s a place where the past and the present collide to form a vibrant character. It seems like a city that is not trying to be anything other than its own unique self, as full of contradictions as it may be. A microcosm of Bolivia and a great introduction to the country.

It was a Sunday, which meant there would be a Cholita wrestling match that night. Cholitas in Bolivia are indigenous women who typically wear two long braids, full skirts, and bowler hats. After reading about the sport in National Geographic and then seeing it on Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods, I was determined to go. I’m not at all interested in wrestling, but I liked the symbolism of it– oppressed women fighting back without exchanging their skirts and petticoats for pants.

The view of La Paz from El AltoThe view of La Paz from El Alto

If you’re looking for full-on wrestling, you won’t find it at a Cholita wrestling match. You will find lots of laughs as long as you go into it with a good sense of humor. The event went on for a little too long and there wasn’t as much Cholita matches as I expected. But it was so bad that it was good. A highly enjoyable, only in Bolivia experience.

The English/Irish group from the previous day modeling their new wrestling gearThe English/Irish group from the previous day modeling their new wrestling gear

A Cholita leaps onto her opponentA Cholita leaps onto her opponent

Entering the match with styleEntering the match with style

Taking on the referee- they are usually on the bad guy's side.Taking on the referee. Refs are usually on the bad guy’s side.

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