Vibrant and frilly skirts, sparkling shawls, and long, dark braids whip around the stage, and cheering screams, popcorn, and water fill the air. Tourists and locals gather in the El Alto region of La Paz to watch women in traditional dress battle it out in the ring. Cholitas Wrestling is WWE inspired, meaning that the performance is merely an act, but an entertaining one at that.
About Cholitas Wrestling
The word ‘cholita’ has traditionally been a derogatory word to describe traditional indigenous women in Bolivia. However, we were told that the women have taken this word and have begun to use it in a more positive light. Cholitas Wrestling represents women showing the worth they hold in a male-dominated society and a society that has traditionally discriminated against them and put them down. It also provides these hard-working women with a means of making money to support their family and communities. The event serves as a breakthrough that allows them to work outside traditional jobs held by the lower class.
Many of the performances reflect this history, as the men in the match originally have the upper hand until the fierce Cholitas fight back to achieve victory. There are also acts where the traditionally-dressed women go head to head with women in wild modern wrestling costumes. Throughout the show the audience cheers for their favorites, typically in favor of the Cholitas.
Getting To Cholitas Wrestling
Cholitas Wrestling takes place every Thursday and Sunday evening in an indoor stadium high above La Paz, about a 30-minute drive from the city center. The event is commonly reached with the help of a tour. There are many tour agencies, all offering similar services and prices to see the show. Around 90 bolivianos ($13 USD) covers transportation, a snack, soda, souvenir, “VIP seating”, and entry for one person. We thought this was worth it to save the hassle of finding the venue in the crowded El Alto streets.
If a tour isn’t your thing, either take a bus from the central San Francisco Church in town or ride the teleferico up. The cost to get in is just under 50 bolivianos ($7 USD), and the cost to take a bus and ride the teleferico one way is just a few bolivianos. Afterwards, take the teleferico back down or find any combi heading to the center of town.
The wrestling event starts and ends with a men’s event. Once the Cholitas begin, performing their bold entrances, the crowd gets excited. A series of different performances are put on, each with a different costume, new wrestlers, and somewhat different storyline. The show lasts about two hours, so grab your popcorn and a drink and sit back and enjoy with friends. There is also a small stand that sells hot dogs, coffee, and tea.
We have to say that the moves were pretty impressive! Hair pulling, choke holds, flips, and tosses were performed, and the women train hard to do this without actually hurting one another. Cholitas stole kisses from gringos in the front row and grabbed waters from the audience to smash over their opponents’ heads. When things got really rowdy, the wrestlers entered the audience, throwing chairs and other props.
Ending Thoughts on the Show
When sitting in the front row, be a good sport or sit further back. The wrestlers love the interaction and they may steal kisses or water from you. One rowdy kid in the front even got spat on by one of the male wrestlers. You are also likely to have popcorn, water, peanuts, and other items fly past you and even land on you if you find yourself in the front. Bring a jacket, as it gets pretty cold in the building later in the show.
If you’re up for a good laugh, this will provide a fun night. It’s funny and peculiar at the same time. Though the event has been commonly attended by locals, it has definitely become very popular among on tourists, as organized tours sit in the front rows while the locals hang out more in the bleachers. Commentators even provide English announcements as well.
Some people enjoy the event more than others. For us it was a fun evening out for a low price, and it allowed us to see a little bit of local entertainment and meet the infamous Cholitas.
What is the most unique event you have attended?