“The iconic bowler hat, the long black braids, the adjusted corset, and the brightly colored puffed skirt: their outfit is well known all around the world. The mythical cholitas are a strong symbol of Bolivia.”
In colloquial Spanish, the “cholita” means a young Bolivian woman very identified with the indigenous culture. These women have always retained the characteristic fashion style of the Aymara tradition, from the plains of the Altiplano that surround the capital, La Paz. Yet for decades, they have suffered an important racial and social discrimination. The term “cholita”, very pejorative then, pointed to the poor country girl, deprived of all her rights.
Everything changed in 2006 with the election of Evo Morales. First Amerindian president in the history of Bolivia, it has enhanced the status of the cholitas and has brought them to the front of the stage. They acquired little by little a new status in the Bolivian society especially through their outfit that is unique to them. In scenes that were unimaginable 10 or 20 years ago, nowadays they have real clout in the economic, political, and even fashion worlds. The new generation of the cholitas wears today the colors of their origins with pride. Between tradition and modernity, they manage to express their cultural heritage, but also their plight for recognition among the urban society.