“…people tried speak with their bodies” (Boal p.131)
“The poetics of the oppressed is essentially the poetics of liberation” (Boal p.155)
The twenty first century has brought a variety of changes to Bolivian society. It is fair to suggest, that among the most noticeable of all these changes is the re-emergence of the once relegated native and autochthonous values, and the new role that indigenous women play in this transformed scenario. In a culture where machismo tints social dynamics at all levels, it is inconceivable for women to participate in a sólo de hombres activity (for men only). And it is even more difficult to accept, when these women have indigenous origins and the activity involves the use of physical power.
The Bolivian cholitas are the first indigenous women to fight professionally in the male-dominated world of lucha libre. Despite their increasing popularity on the global stage, locally, the wrestling cholitas are rejected by the Bolivian male-wrestling show business, and they are even forbidden from wrestling in the national circuit. Bolivian cholitas professionally wrestle to promote their culture and to fight for their rights, because “we cholitas have been highly humiliated and discriminated in the past” (Carmen de Rosa, qtd. in Schipani, Andres. “Women Wrestling Sweeps Bolivia.” 31 May 2008. BBC.).
The documentary Wrestling with Manhood: Boys, Bulling & Battering establishes the connection between professional wrestlers from the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and the construction of contemporary masculinity. Chapter 3 (“Making Men”) draws the ideal of manhood proposed by the league, which associates masculinity with violence and dominance of others. Chapter 5 (“Divas: Sex & Male Fantasy”) elaborates on the control over women, and shows how their humiliation is associated with the heterosexual fantasy that intends to leave no room for uncertainty to the straightness of the male wrestlers. Finally, Chapter 6 (“Normalizing Gender Violence”) shows how the WWE league normalizes and justifies men’s violence against women in the real world.
As shown in the 2009 documentary film Mamachas del Ring, cholita wrestlers are on their own: they manage their own business and contracts, they organize and promote their own shows, and they even create their own costumes. These women are fighters in the ring and in life. Most cholitas are street vendors. They have many kids in their household (ten seems to be an average number), and a husband who questions their role in the family. Today’s wrestling cholitas are struggling to manage and balance their lives as artisans, mothers, and wives, with their passion: wrestling.