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Cholitas, the revenge of a generation

Delphine Blast | Bolivia

Organization: Hanslucas

Cholitas students at the most important modeling school, La Paz, Hôtel Torino, Bolivia, 2016.

The iconic bowler hat, the long black braids, the adjusted corset, and the brightly colored puffed skirt: their outfit is well known all around the world. The mythical cholitas are a strong symbol of Bolivia.

Yet for decades, they have suffered an important racial and social discrimination. The term "cholita", very pejorative then, pointed to the poor country girl, deprived of all her rights.

But gradually, things are changing and today the trend is more than reversed: in 2017 cholitas are on the front of the stage. In scenes that were unimaginable 10 or 20 years ago, nowadays they have real clout in the economic, political, and even fashion worlds. The new generation of the cholitas wears today the colors of their origins with pride. Between tradition and modernity, they manage to express theircultural heritage, but also their plight for recognition among the urban society.

The cholitas have managed to find their place in modern society without denying their collective past. They are an expression of the dignity of Indian populations.

After having dedicated several works to the situation of women in Latin America, I wanted to go to Bolivia, to meet these women in order to understand what it means to be a cholita today. 

Here is a story illustrating the place of this new generation of cholitas in the Bolivian society today and more particularly in La Paz. I chose to follow some cholitas representative of this evolution in progress in their daily life.

            Through this work, I wish to counteract the stereotype of the traditional Bolivian woman and reconsider the dated Western vision of this population.


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