Where can you see a cat beat up a skeleton, beat up a clown, beat up a cholita, beat up a scary-ass-gimp-mask-wearing-muscle man?
Welcome to Cholitas Luchadoras, a weekly Sunday night wrestling extravaganza held in the La Paz district of El Alto.
In the beginning
Though it started out as one of those strange ideas floated amongst laughing friends, Cholitas Luchadoras has become a wildly successful weekend institution in La Paz and another must-do on Bolivia’s already stupendously long trail of must-dos. (Despite their success, or probably because of it, I prefer to imagine the founders before they started lining their pockets with bolivianos; on the afternoon they were to be found chortling uproariously over their coca leaf teas after one of them pitched the ludicrous concept…then slapping each other heartily on the back. Which probably caused a wee bit of choking, followed by more laughter.)
Promoter Nelson Calle was thinking out of the box back in 2003 when he came up with the idea to include women in the ring in a bid to attract greater audience numbers for the flailing local wresting project. News sources and blogs all over the country told how Calle came up with the idea:
“I saw women in polleras (those voluminous Andean skirts) fighting in a street in El Alto. It grabbed my attention that people had gathered around to watch, but that no one defended them or broke them up. That’s what inspired the idea of cholitas luchadoras.”
Cholitas Luchadoras was born
And so, each Sunday night, locals and less-locals alike gather to see this cocktail of “traditional” novelty wrestling – huge men dressed comically in masks and Lyrca – and cholitas (or, for those of us not educated in the correct Spanish terms, “you know, those ladies in Bolivia who wear bowler skirts and those impossibly ruffled A-line skirts.”)
The result is like watching two fully grown women in pig-tails throwing a tantrum in the aisles of a supermarket.
How to get there
To get here, you can go one of two ways: Line up like with the paceñas, or pay a little more for a gringo pass (my term). The latter option will see you shell out 80BOB (USD$11) to just relax and be taken there and back, fed some popcorn and soda and get a little souvenir of your time. Usually, I’d shun this overly catered-for option and do it myself. But I was convinced to take the do-it-for-me option…and here’s why:
a) Firstly, El Alto is not that convenient a location to get to in La Paz, and it was likely that I was destined to be ripped off my a taxi driver on the way there…something which would see me shell out a similar amount of money anyway.
b) Secondly, I was really curious to see what that “souvenir” was gonna be.
c) And thirdly…and perhaps most importantly: Sitting in the bleachers with the locals actually affords you a really head-on, annoying view of all the tourists…so I decided that I preferred to go along with the other gringos, and spoil the view for others. Sad but true.
The show really was too long (at almost 3 hours) but the regular character changes helped ease the monotony that occasionally creeped up. For safety, the choreography is well-practiced but still amusing – as the characters are chosen to encourage side-taking from the audience. Chaos reigns when the refs take sides and are verbally bashed by the commentators…who improvise throughout and are really quite funny.
There were crashes, spilled drinks, stolen drinks (it’s thirsty work, wrestling!) and some audience participation…all in all, entertaining as a woman in a bowler hat wrestling a Bulgarian strong man could be expected to be.
Popcorn, soda and wrestling? Sign me uppppp.