El Alto is the foremost city for women’s wrestling. At bit’s largest public gymnasium, hundreds of people sit for hours and watch the seemingly endless array of women, performing dazzling feats of skill and strength. Many of the women, mostly of Aymara descent, are edressed in the traditional fashion of the Andean highlands, including shiny skirts over layers of petticoats, embroidered shawls pinned with filigreed jewelry, and bowler hats.
A typical fight can include one woman swinging another into the ropes by the pigtails. Or whirling through the air, with braids and petticoats flying.
The sport in Bolivia has it’s own heros and villains, the goodies and baddies. The goodies are ‘tecnicas” and the baddies are “rudas”.
The show is run by Juan Mamani, and the cholitas (women wrestlers) are terrified of him. The women all have daytinme jobs, and the wrestling is only part time. But many of the women have almost cult-like followings.
Mumani, too, does the job part-time, when he’s not working in the elecrtical store he owns. Though a fearsome and unfriendly man, who also wrestles, he has spent a sizeable proportion of his own money on the women’s wrestling.
And the crowds thank him for it.