What do Bolivian indigenous women and WWF (yes- I know it's WWE now, but I'm old school and refuse to embrace the change) style wrestling have in common? More than you might think! Enter... the fighing cholitas. I saw a poster advertising the wrestling matches that take place every Sunday afternoon in El Alto, Bolivia and knew that we absolutely HAD to attend. I have fond childhood memories of hanging out with my dad and brother, watching the greats like Andre the Giant and Jake the Snake on TV, but have never been to a real, live match... until now.
For around $11 per person, tourists can get VIP front row tickets with transportation to one of the epic matches. Also included is a popcorn snack, which you are encouraged to throw at the wrestlers. When we got there, the stands were filled with locals and tourists alike. The first few rounds are mostly men in ridiculous costumes fighting each other, with one wrestler being the obvious "bad guy". They were amusing, but nothing compared to what was to come next.
I was PUMPED for the next set of matches... A Cholita woman wrestling a man. Obviously everyone was rooting for the women, who were in their full traditional attire. The matches were a little cheesy, but still fun. At the beginning, the "ref" checked each fighter for weapons (while trying to sneak a feel in on the cholitas). The men beat the crap out of the women to start with, but the cholitas always came back for the win. My favorite move was the body slam followed by strangling the cholita with her own braids. The refs didn't always play fair, sometimes ganging up on the women for some two-on-one action. There was some chair throwing and rowdiness involved, making it all the better.
The final sets of matches were the main event... cholita vs. cholita. The bad one (Lucifer) was dressed in full devil attire, while the good one (Marta) was in an ornate, traditional glittery skirt. These women were tough, jumping off the ropes, body slamming each other, and really getting into it. In the very last match, a cholita fought a giant cat. The cat grabbed an unsuspecting spectator's 2 liter of coke, shokt it up, and sprayed it all over the cholita (and crowd). The fans went crazy, and a lot of popcorn was thrown in retaliation. For revenge, the cholita picked up the giant cat and threw him into the crowd. After some chair throwing and general debauchary, someone came out with a set of chains and started swinging. The crowd shrieked and cleared out, and chairs went flying. All in all, a fantastic way to spend a Sunday evening in Bolivia.