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PROUDLY CHOLITA

Being a Cholita is a social, mental, aesthetic status. Arriving in Bolivia from Chile we were impressed by such a strong evidence of the indigenous presence and traditions. Everywhere women and girls dressed with a particular outfit: a bowler, 2 braids connected together at the end, wide hips skirts, multiple layered, and a multicolor canvas tied in a knot above the breastbone and containing everything (kids included) or left empty with a beautiful pin to adorn it. Every piece is necessary, it has a aim and a reason, and it’s traditionally linked to Aymara culture, hugely presente in this area. Minorities are quichua and Guaraní.
Let’s talk about it. Hairs divided in 2 braids must be the longest possible because it is considered very beautiful, and for this reason at the end of them they tied extensions with ponpons to make them even longer. Skirts, poleras, are rich in layers and fakes large hips, symbol of wealthy and fertility. The medium for Aymara is 8-10 kids families, that’s why fertile women have usually large hips. Moreover, the multiple layers help protecting against the cold and wind (underneath them they wear wool socks). Finally, skirts have another aim. They let see just a small par of what is considered the sexiest part of a woman body In Aymara’s culture: the calfs. The bigger the sexier.
The origin of the bowler lays in a legend we don’t really trust in but it sounds funny. Borsalino, the known Italian stylist, tried to export its hats in Bolivia. According to an erroneous belief, they thought Bolivians small, heads included, and only exported small hats. They couldn’t fit men heads. So they started advertising them for women, lying on a supposed European fashion to wear hats on the bottom of the head (they were too small also for women). And on the fact that such a hat could make them seem higher. But Aymara women personalize it. Why wearing a hat without a practical reason? That’s why married women wear it right over the head while single one, to make sure to spread the message, wear it on the left or right side of the head.
Being a Cholita back to 10 years ago wasn’t so exciting. Girls coming to live to towns abandoned the traditional outfit because it was often a ground of discrimination. But, doing so, they were also isolated by the families. Today is wore with proud. An example? The amazing Cholita Wrestlers or Julia, a alpinist guide on Huayna Potosi. As her there are cooks, loaders who, without abandoning their outfit, work side by side with men, at thousand meters altitudes and in extreme conditions.

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