Professional wrestling has a place among many cultures in Latin America, with masked luchadores taking to the ring from Mexico to Argentina. In La Paz, the most celebrated fighters of the night don’t wear spandex and masks, but bowler hats and frilly skirts.
The Cholitas are the main event of the wrestling matches held at the Coliseo. The venue sits within a rapidly growing city filled with recent immigrants from rural Bolivia and the largest Amerindian population in the world.
“Cholita” was traditionally a derogatory name for lower class women of mixed indigenous heritage. These wrestlers reclaim the term while poking fun at themselves, wearing the traditional costume of peasant women and playing up their feistiness.
Much like professional wrestling in the U.S., lucha libre emphasizes theatrical entertainment over a real fight. The Cholitas really are tough though—they swing each other around the ring, bonk each other on the head, yank long braids, and pin each other in headlocks. They also spar with male opponents (and are usually the favorites in such matches). The matches are “supposed” to be confined to the ring, but when things get out of hand the luchadores are known to tussle throughout the auditorium and use all kinds of zany props. The most famous Cholitas even get the audience involved—they will steal beverages and kisses from handsome fans.