Bolivian Female Wrestlers

Collection with 44 media items created by U.S. Editor

03 Jun 2012 12:00

In the last ten years, increasing numbers of indigenous woman have taken to wrestling in the outskirts of La Paz, fighting back against the dominant culture of machismo and discrimination.

Yolanda La Amarosa flies through the air in a swirl of gold lamé and petticoats, her calves clamped around the throat of her unfortunate opponent. He spins across the ring to land in a sprawl on the canvas, hand pressed against his lower back, face set in a grimace of agony. Quieres mas, cabron? Yolanda cries as she strides over and kicks him in the back of the head. There’s a ripple of applause and laughter from her fellow wrestlers, who are hanging on the ropes, waiting their turn to practice the same sequence.

The ring is set up in a junkyard on the outskirts of El Alto, a sprawling migrant city that was once just a suburb of La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. The wrestlers are training on torn mattresses atop wooden planks. It’s late afternoon and the sun dips quickly behind the peaks of the altiplano. At well over 4000 metres, the air is thin and freezing. As the session ends, Yolanda puts her bowler hat on at a jaunty angle, sits on a pile of bricks and asks me, que quieres saber…?

Yolanda Veraluz was one of the first cholita luchadores in Bolivia. Like almost all her fellow female wrestlers, she’s indigenous Aymara – a descendant of the Tiahuanaco culture that predated the Inca. Women started wrestling in Bolivia in the nineties, going head to head with the men. In a country where machismo is almost a reflex, the cholita luchadores have become a symbol of female empowerment – a fact of which Yolanda is all too aware. “We’ve shown that women don’t have to accept discrimination and humiliation… that a woman can speak with the same voice as the man. She has the same rights as her husband – to study, to work, to get ahead.”

Once derogatory, the chola moniker has become a source of pride. In October 2011, many of the top cholita wrestlers broke away from the main wrestling organization, Titanes del Ring, which was dominated by one man, Juan Mamani. Disillusioned with Mamani’s autocratic approach, they set up an independent association and are going it alone. "Juan Mamani stole our money," says Yolanda. "But we realized that we don't need him. We can do this ourselves."

Populist president Evo Morales has been a vocal champion of Bolivia's predominantly poor indigenous population - in particular its women. In 2010, he put together a cabinet that was evenly split between genders and which included three indigenous women. There are now signs of an emerging indigenous middle class in the capital La Paz. “Five years ago, we were looked down upon – we used to just wait on the rich,” Yolanda tells me. “But now, thanks to our President, we’re working in banks, in offices and even in government.”

Multimedia Piece Available Here:
http://transterramedia.com/media/15848

Wrestling Bolivia Female Wrest... Women Machismo Discrimination Resistance Bolivian Wre... Culture Dominant Cul... Patriarchy Strength Competition Arts & Culture Sports Entertainment South America

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Bolivian Female Wrestlers
La Paz
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Yolanda La Amorosa launches herself at a male opponent during a training session in El Alto, a satellite city in the mountains above La Paz. In the last ten years, increasing numbers of indigenous women have been taking to the rings in the outskirts of La Paz, fighting back against the dominant culture of machismo and discrimination.

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Women Wrestling (2 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

An indigenous woman begs outside Iglesia de San Francisco in La Paz. La Paz has long been a place of both indigenous and gender discrimination, as well as a hotbed of revolution.

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Women Wrestling (3 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Marta La Altena adds the final touches to her wrestling costume in preparation for her Sunday night bout. Marta - real name Jenny Mamani Herrera - supplements her income from wrestling by making and selling associated paraphernalia.

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Women Wrestling (4 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Martha La Altena and her sister, Maria la Maldita - real name Maria Mamani Herrera - put on earrings and make up before Martha's fight in El Alto at night. Only women from the Aymara ethnic group wear the distinctive bowler hats that were introduced in the early 1900's.

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Women Wrestling (5 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Martha La Altena leaves home late on a Sunday afternoon for her fight that evening. Her sister, Maria la Maldita, an ex Lucha Libre champion, is pregnant and stays at home. She runs a small store close by. Though wrestling can bring some fame, it brings in very little money.

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Women Wrestling (6 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Veteran wrestler Yolanda La Amorosa chokes relative newcomer Mercedes La Extremista against the top rope during a training session at a homemade ring on the outskirts of El Alto. The only padding is some old mattresses atop planks of wood.

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Women Wrestling (7 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Yolanda La Amorosa tangles with Mercedes La Extremista during a training session in El Alto. Yolanda recently injured her back quite seriously and had just returned to training after a 3 month hiatus.

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Women Wrestling (8 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

The Cholita Luchadores wrestle in the traditional clothes of the Aymara woman, which date back as far as the 17th century. Yolanda La Amorosa shows how flimsy and slippery the colourful slippers are compared to the professional boots the men wear.

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Women Wrestling (9 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Mariella Averanga aka 'Denita la Intocable' , stands ringside before her fight with Martha La Altena. She is 31 years of age, has one daughter. Her day job is as a shop owner

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Women Wrestling (10 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Denita La Intocable tries to stagger to her feet during her bout with Marta La Altena. As with all wrestlers around the world, each wrestler has a good or evil persona - Denita 'The Untouchable' is one of the good guys - though that doesn't prevent her from losing her bout on this occasion.

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Women Wrestling (11 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Martha puts Denita into a rear naked choke during their fight at a repurposed warehouse in El Alto. Denita's plight is not helped by the fact that the referee is ludicrously biased towards her opponent.

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Women Wrestling (12 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

The tides turn for the umpteenth time during their fight as the theatrics continue to unfold.

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Women Wrestling (13 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Yolanda La Amorosa - real name Yolanda Veraluz was one of the first women wrestlers in Bolivia. Her father was a wrestler, but refused to train her when she was a child.

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Women Wrestling (14 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Juanita la Carinosa aka Mary Llanos is one of the key figures in a breakaway group of independent wrestlers who broke away from the most dominant organisation, Los Titanes Del Ring (Titans of the Ring). They claimed that the boss, Juan Mamani, was exploiting them.

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Women Wrestling (15 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Marta La Altena poses before her bout . Much effort goes into a wrestler's appearance, though she will likely end the evening in a state of dishevelment.

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Women Wrestling (16 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Carmen Rojas aka Llovana Huanapaco is 36 years old and has two kids. She's a technical vocation teacher and one of the most famous of the Cholita Luchadores.

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Women Wrestling (17 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Dina La Reina del Ring aka Lydia Flores is 28 years old. She has three children and works as an office cleaner. Her special move is 'La Zanita'

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Women Wrestling (18 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

View from more than 4000 metres on the edge of El Alto, looking down on La Paz, the highest de facto capital in the world. El Alto was once a suburb of La Paz but has grown enormously over the last two decades as migrants have poured in and residents have had families.

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Women Wrestling (19 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Mercedes La Extremista delivers a brutal clothesline to her male opponent during a training session in Zona Complejo, El Alto. It's a tough sport, despite the theatrics.

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Women Wrestling (20 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Yolanda La Amarosa executes the first step in the highly gymnastic 'sesenta y nueve' wrestling move.

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Women Wrestling (21 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

What Maria La Hija de Mr Atlas lacks in dexterity, she more than makes up for in power. At 41, she's among the oldest of the Cholita Luchadores and she has two children.

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Women Wrestling (22 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Maria La Hija De Mr Atlas hits the canvas as Yolanda La Amorosa prepares to put her in a submission.

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Women Wrestling (23 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

The wrestlers cool down after their training session. By late afternoon, the temperature is dropping towards freezing. After this, they must pack away the ring to protect it from the elements.

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Women Wrestling (24 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

A young boy looks on from the bleachers as an evening's wrestling gets underway. Modeled on the much more famous Mexican version, Bolivian Lucha Libre provides an escape from the daily grind with its simple narratives of good versus evil.

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Women Wrestling (25 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

The Luchadores Independientes De Extremos Riesgo are competing against the much more famous Titanes Del Ring for the public's affection. They have not been able to secure the same kind of audiences as their competitor, but are determined to go it alone instead of being exploited.

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Bolivian Women Wrestling (26 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Dina La Reina Del Ring comes to the aid of Denita La Intocable during the latter's bout with bad girl Marta La Altena.

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Women Wrestling (27 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Yolanda La Amorosa prepares to body slam her opponent during a training session in a junkyard on the outskirts of El Alto.

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Women Wrestling (28 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Mercedes La Extremista leaps from the top rope during a training session in El Alto.

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Women Wrestling (30 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Maria La Hija de Mr Atlas delivers a forearm smash to her male opponent during a training session at Zona Complejo on the outskirts of El Alto

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Women Wrestling (31 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Denita La Intocable addresses her fans after her unfair defeat by the evil Marta La Altena. Wrestlers have loyal supporters, all of which adds to the drama.

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Women Wrestling (32 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Marta La Altena humiliates her opponent, to the delighted outrage of the crowd.

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Women Wrestling (33 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Denita La Intocable exhorts her fans to make some noise during her bout with the evil Marta La Altena.

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Women Wrestling (34 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

In the last ten years, increasing numbers of indigenous woman have been entering the rings in the outskirts of La Paz, fighting back against the dominant culture of machismo and discrimination.

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Women Wrestling (35 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Residents of El Alto riveted by the Sunday afternoon action at the 12 Octubre Stadium. The vast majority of the city's population is indigenous - and poor. The weekly bouts make for an inexpensive family day out.

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Women Wrestling (36 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

In an early bout, Dina La Reina Del Ring is ambushed by her female opponent's masked male partner. She manages to get the better of both of them - for now.

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Women Wrestling (37 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

The Polla skirt is one of the most recognisable elements in the Aymara woman's traditional dress. Derived from traditional Spanish costumes of centuries ago, it has become a symbol of indigenous pride.

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Women Wrestling (38 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

The Cholita Luchadores spend a lot of time on their appearance prior to entering the ring. There is an air of female camaraderie in the makeshift changing room, before the battles begin, of course.

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Women Wrestling (39 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Dina La Reina Del Ring, in prayer, before her bout at the 12 Octubre Stadium in El Alto.

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Women Wrestling (40 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Carmen Rojas takes a pinch of Coca Leaf about an hour before she enters the ring. Coca is widely chewed amongst the Aymara and Quechua population. Its practical effects - mental stimulation, appetite suppression and energy are a boon in the ring.

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Women Wrestling (41 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Marta La Altena aka Jenny Mamani Herrera gives her daughter some money to buy groceries with. Her real life personality is a far cry from her evil wrestling persona.

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Women Wrestling (42 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Marta la la Altena is helped by her sister as she prepares for her bout that evening.

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Women Wrestling (43 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Marta La Altena aka jenny Mamani Herrera prepares for her Sunday evening bout. First job...which bowler hat is going to be the perfect match for her outfit? These distinctive hats, worn by Aymara women, were originally intended for use by railroad workers, but struck a chord with indigenous women instead.

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Women Wrestling (44 of 44)
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Marta La Altena head up the valley towards the main road where a car will take her to the 12 October Stadium for her evening bout. Behind her in the distance can be seen the office blocks of La Paz, Bolivia's literally breath-taking de facto capital.

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Bolivian Female Wrestlers / Multimedia
Bolivia
By James Morgan
03 Jun 2012

Bolivian Wrestlers fight back against the dominant culture of machismo and discrimination. Photo Essay also available: see the image collection here: http://transterramedia.com/collections/928