Bodyslammed in Bolivia – the female wrestlers of El Alto

Our friends over at Intelligent Travel pointed us to this awesome video slideshow feature on female wrestling in Bolivia, put together by the team at National Geographic. Lucha libre, for those who are not familiar, is a style of pro-wrestling popular in Latin America. Its popularity extends all the way to South America, where in Bolivia, a feisty group of women have adopted the sport as their own to show their toughness, demonstrate their passion for lucha libre and just simply to let off a little steam.

Called cholitas luchadoras, these wrestling women are typically Aymara, one of the main ethnic groups of Bolivia. Taking stage names like the “Amorous Yolanda” and the “Evil Claudina,” the women take to the stage in the town of El Alto each Saturday night, dressed in their full traditional regalia of petticoats, bowler hats and braided hair. These girls don’t play nice either – attendees can expect to see all the bone-crunching body slams, flying leaps and folding chair weapons they have come to expect from their male counterparts.

It was only 7 years ago that Bolivian entrepreneur and diehard lucha libre fan Juan Mamani had the idea to introduce women into his weekly wrestling events. Attendance was dwindling and Mamani wanted to find a way to bring a new audience to the shows. Several years on and the women have become one of the event’s most popular draws. More interesting perhaps, is that many men come not to gawk at the “pretty ladies” but seem to genuinely admire them for their skill and passion for the sport.

I can’t say that I’ve ever been much of a fan of wrestling, but these women might have won me over. Anybody up for some lucha libre on their next South America trip?