Eduardo Leal

Documentary Photographer
    
Wrestling Cholitas
Location: Macau, China
Nationality: Portuguese
Biography: Eduardo Leal is a Portuguese documentary photographer based in Macau, China, that focus his work mostly in South East Asia. Previously he worked for several years in South America. He graduated in Journalism at Escola Superior de Jornalismo (ESJ)... read on
Public Story
Wrestling Cholitas
Credits: eduardo leal
Updated: 11/16/16
Location: La Paz, Bolivia

Every Sunday afternoon on the city of El Alto, once merely suburb of the city of La Paz situated at 4,150 meter high, hundreds of Bolivians and tourists cue at the door of the 12th October Sports Complex to see women wrestling. The fighting is performed by Cholitas, indigenous women that wear their pollera (a multilayers lively colour skirts), braided hair and bowler hats on the ring.

In the past, women that used the pollera were repressed, isolated. “Our ancestors would say that women on pollera couldn’t even write or read, they didn’t even have the right to learn”, tells me Mary Llanos Sanz, 31, commonly known as Juanita La Cariñosa, leader of the fighting Cholitas. Nowadays they can do anything; they are respected, and slowly they started taking essential places in the Bolivian society.

It all started because the wrestling in Bolivia was not going so well. The public lost the interest in it. A fighter and promoter, Juan Mamani, had the idea to put Cholitas on the ring to attract public. Things started going well, but mostly for the promoter who kept most of the money. The women after years of exploitation decide to leave and take over their destiny. On July 2014, they formed an association where they are all responsible and where everyone has a voice.

Not everything on the ring is a spectacle. The falls and the blows are real, and even if they are friends outside the ring, inside, they take it seriously. Mostly is done for the fame and glamour, since the money is too little because they have to cover the rent of the space and ring, transports and hopefully in the future insurance that they can’t afford it now. On a typical Sunday, they can earn between 150 to 200 Bolivianos (US$21-$US28).

To be able to wrestle, a Cholita has to do one year of introduction to real practice. If they make that year, then they are allowed to step into the ring and fight. But the hardest part is to their boyfriends and husbands accept their sport. In a machismo society as the Bolivian one, men feel an inferiority complex to be with strong women, which leads to around 90% of the fighters to be separated and divorced. Many of them prefer to keep fighting on the ring and outside for their sport and their freedom as women.

16,470

By Eduardo Leal —

VISUAL STORY

Sangam

By Eduardo Leal — India’s Kumbh Mela is considered the largest gathering of humanity on Earth. Just on the last Kumbh, that finished on Prayagraj last March, it..
VISUAL STORY

In the Ring

By Eduardo Leal — About 15 years ago seeing women on a ring fighting Muay Thai in Thailand was almost unheard off, unless it was in a ceremonial fight in the local..
VISUAL STORY

Plastic Sea

By Eduardo Leal — Every year more than 448 million tons of plastic are produced worldwide, of these between 5.3 million to 14 million tons enter the oceans, meaning..
VISUAL STORY

Cholita's Rise

By Eduardo Leal — As recently as 10 years ago, Bolivia’s indigenous Aymara and Quechua women were socially ostracized and systematically marginalized. Known as..
VISUAL STORY

St. Bartolomeu

By Eduardo Leal — Every year on 24 August, faith and tradition join thousands of people at the feast of St. Bartolomeu do Mar, for an unusual ritual that mixes the..
VISUAL STORY

Afterquake

By Eduardo Leal — On the 16 th April 2016 at 18:58 local time, the earth became alive for 75 seconds in Ecuador. An earthquake of the magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter..
VISUAL STORY

Revolution Chronicles

By Eduardo Leal — At the end of June 2011, I arrived in Caracas, the capital of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela with the objective to cover the celebrations of..
VISUAL STORY

Ghost Town Democracy

By Eduardo Leal — Countries like the United States and the UK are trying to integrate elections seamlessly into daily life—you can vote by mail as if you were..
VISUAL STORY

Copa do Povo

By Eduardo Leal — Even if football was born in England, Brazil is considered the spiritual home of the game. During a month, from the 12th June 2014, the world will..
VISUAL STORY

Bolivian Ball

By Eduardo Leal — Travis Dupree comes from Eastman, a small town in central Georgia. He played basketball at Voorhees College in South Carolina but after graduation..
VISUAL STORY

Killer Bean

By Eduardo Leal — The soybean will in a few years become one of the most important food commodities on earth. No other fruit is produced with comparable..
VISUAL STORY

The Island

By Eduardo Leal — Surrounded by sand and lagoons in Lençois do Maranhão National Park, an area that stretches 155 thousand hectares on the State of Maranhão in..
VISUAL STORY

Forcados

By Eduardo Leal — Portuguese forcados lie somewhere between the bull riders of the Americas and the bloodier bullfighters of Spain. Unlike in Spain, where the bull..
VISUAL STORY

Plastic Trees

By Eduardo Leal — The world consumes 1 million every minute, it was considered by Guinness World Book of Records as “the most ubiquitous consumer item in the..
VISUAL STORY

Victims & Heroes

By Eduardo Leal — Colombia’s armed conflict, which started in the 1960’s, might be close to an end. After almost four years of negotiations between the Colombian..
VISUAL STORY

Bolivian Dreams

By Eduardo Leal — Linked to the celebration of the harvest and the arrival of the rains in the La Paz region, the Alasitas Festival is the feast of the dreams for..
Join us
for more access