Bolivia’s cholitas take an elegant step forward against discrimination

Cholitas of BoliviaBolivia’s indigenous cholitas are overcoming the worse excesses of discrimination

Indigenous people are victims of deliberate discrimination around the world. Some respite is earned as a modicum of economic wealth and cultural change occurs.

One such story from Bolivia is recounted in a BBC documentary [february 2014].

With their high bowler hats, puffed skirts and coquettish demeanour, they may look like they have stepped out of an early 20th century television costume drama, but cholas – or as they are affectionately known, cholitas – are very much a driving force in modern Bolivia.

Until recent decades, these indigenous Aymara and Quechua women – who can be easily identified by their distinctive, elegant outfits – could be refused entry to certain restaurants, taxis and even some public buses.
For generations, they were not permitted to walk freely in the capital La Paz’s central square, Plaza Murillo – home to the presidential palace – nor in wealthy suburbs like the city’s Zona Sur. Predominantly rural peasants who had migrated to the cities, they were seen as a lower strata who stayed in the home, or worked as servants or hawkers.

“They used to say, ‘chola, no no!” when we tried to go to those places,” says Carmen Mamani de Espejo, who sells flowers every Saturday at La Paz’s Rodriguez Market. “Now it’s much better for cholitas. We have more confidence now, we can walk where we like.”

After Evo

The culture change in Bolivia has accelerated since 2005 with the election of Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous President. Leading the change are the traditionally dressed women now acquiring the cool status of the fashion designer’s models. Interestingly the culture change seems, according to the BBC, primarily through the women who are more regularly to be seen in the up market area of La Paz where they were once excluded, cruelly barred, on racial grounds.

now they are stepping out making a political as well as cultural statement. Interestingly, the style has not spread to their male consorts who cling to their Western style suits.

the cool dudes from the Congo in a recent Guinness advert. gentlemen-of-bacongo-5[1]

Remember the sapeurs?

A gender reversal, but other ways with echoes of the fashion statement made by the sapeurs.

More images

You can see more images of Cholitas in this Fox News item

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