Don’t let the colorful poofy skirts, braided hair and stocky physique fool you. These cholitas luchadoras can kick your a$$. For a good buck, they actually wrestle each other while their town watches.
Cholita, the diminutive of chola, is the name given to the local indigenous women of El Alto, Bolivia, and some of them have become celebrities thanks to the sport. Juan Mamani, a local luchador, taught them how to wrestle after people had lost interest in watching his fights.
“At the beginning, they thought of it as a bit of a joke,” said photographer Eduardo Leal. But that soon changed. “They are hugely popular, compared to the men,” he said.
When the cholitas hold a fight on Sundays, there are many tourists watching, but mostly locals. “I could see the local crowd was nearly all their friends,” Leal said.
Their popularity has come with a price, though. Some of them have lost their husbands or boyfriends because the men can’t stand to see the women show off their strength. You know, typical machista attitude.
The women dropped Mamani as their boss because he was keeping most of the money, according to Leal, but the cholitas have kept on fightin’.
Check out more pictures of these fierce women at Refinery29
Machismo in the Latinidad can make many spaces difficult for women to break in. However, the boy’s club has never stopped Latinas from making their mark and owning just how amazing women can be. A prime example of this is the Luchadoras who excel in the male-dominated world of Mexican wrestling. Lucha Libre was started all the way back in 1863 by Enrique Ugartechea, the first Luchador.
Ugartchea developed Mexican wrestling based on the wrestling of the Greco-Romans. The high flying maneuvers and theatrical drama was an instant hit with sport fans. The sport spread from the regions of Mexico up to the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. At first, Lucha Libre was only a guys sport but women eventually began making room for themselves in the macho sport. Today, Luchadoras wrestle in every major league and even have their own. In 2000, Lucha Libre Femenil, an all-female promotion company, was established.
Now, there is no shortage of extraordinary Luchadoras to entertain and inspire us. Here are some of the most boss mujeres in the business:
Mystique became interested in the world of Luche Libre because her boyfriend was a big fan. After showing her videos of wrestling matches, the Mexicana decided she wanted to train and begin wrestling. She took inspiration from X-Men character Mystique for her name but her persona is straight out of Japan. Dressed like a masked ninja luchadora, Mystique has fans all over the world, especially in Mexico and Japan.
Wrestling out of California, this Luchadora is a newcomer who made her debut in August 2018 with the Empire Wrestling Federation. Vulcana takes her name from famous strong woman Miriam Kate Williams. Active in the late 1800’s through early 1900’s Williams’ stage name was also Vulcana. Vulcana is all about showing the strength of women. By using her own power, her goal is to bring the knowledge of the ancestors back into Lucha Libre.
3. La Hiedra
Nicknamed La Nueva Reina del Escandalo, La Hiedra is a Luchadora from Northern Mexico. Two years after her debut, La Hiedra advanced to the final of the Quien Pinta Por La Corona. Though she didn’t win that title, the Luchadora has had great support with Lucha Libre fans. Since 2015, La Hiedra has wrestled with Lucha Libra AAA Worldwide and has also appeared with the International Wrestling Revolution Group.
Luchadora Sanely started out as a mystery woman during the 2015 CMLL Bodybuilding Competition. She was so impressive during this appearance that it earned her a debut with Consejo Mundial Lucha Libre. Sanely isn’t just a boss Luchadora, she’s a legacy! Her father, grandfather, brother, and brother-in-law are all Luchadors. In fact, Sanely’s nickname is La Dama del Guante Negro after her father’s stage name, Mano Negro.
5. Baby Puma
Baby Puma is another bit of proof that Lucha Libre runs in the family. Her father is the famous Luchador Ultratumba and her sister is Lady Pumba. Wrestling since 2008, Baby Puma has made a name for herself separate from her famous familia. Wrestling at the Arena Femenil, Baby Puma’s high energy moves have earned the Luchadora her own legion of loyal fans.
Lluvia is a fishnet-clad Luchadora who wrestles with CMLL. Utilizing her signature move, the Octopus Cradle, she claimed the title of Reina Tag-Team Champion alongside Luna Mágica in 2011. Family is very important to Lluvia. In 2017, the Luchadora became a mama! She’s also from a Lucha Libre family. In fact, her sister is #3 on this list, La Hiedra.
7. Magic Girl
Magic Girl is a Mexican Luchadora who trained with stars of Lucha Libre like Pantera II and El Diablo Jr. Her first experience wrestling was at a sports festival. Magic Girl was so good that the audience threw money into the ring at the end of the match. Lucha Libre is also a family event for Magical Girl. Although, she was the one to inspire her father, Blasniety, to train and perform as a Luchador.
Sexy Star started her career as a Luchadora under the name Dulce Poly. However, it’s under stage name Sexy Star that she’s done her best work. The Latina is a three-time AAA Reina de Reinas Champion as well as a AAA World Mixed Tag Team Campion. Despite her huge success, Sexy Star chose to leave the world of Lucha Libre. In 2017, the Luchadora allowed herself to be unmasked so she could work on her new career as a boxer.
9. Lady Flamer
19-year-old Lady Flamer might be young, but she’s already a champion. Among her victories, the Latina won the LLF Championship and LLF Tag Team Title alongside Lady Puma. The daughter of the Red Flamer, Lady Flamer was the first of his children to train in the family business. She was the surprise Luchadora in her debut match during The Crash at Auditorio de Tijauana.
10. Goya Kong
Goya Kong is a plus-sized Luchadora who uses her size as a strategy in the ring. She uses humor in her performances just as her Luchador dad, Brazo de Plata, did in his wrestling. The Luchadora started her career with AAA but switched to CMLL in 2010 when her father also changed leagues. In 2013, Goya Kong won the Trofero Arena Coliseo 70 Aniverserio Championship, beating the Luchadora who unmasked her the previous year.
Danah is the younger sister Luchadora Goya Kong. Starting her career as Muñeca de Plata, her debut name was a call back to her father, Brazo de Plata. Danah spent several years as a part-time Luchadora with AAA and CMLL. However, in 2015 the Latina debuted anew with Lucha Libre Elite as a league regular.
12. Lady Shani
Lady Shani is kind of a big deal. She is the current AAA Reina de Reinas Champion and the 2017 winner of the Producciones Cordero Copa Femenil. She began her wrestling career with the name Sexy Lady and was a ruda or villain. Her fans didn’t seem to mind her role as a bad girl, though. She has adoring fans over the world.
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On the last day of 2019, Bolivian officials arrested a university student for creating a popular meme account that criticized the controversial change of government. Bolivia saw a change from long-beloved indigenous President Evo Morales to the self-declared Conservative Christian Interim President Jeanine Añez Chavez. The arrest of María Alejandra Salinas comes in the wake of rising concern of the stability of the democracy after military personnel violently ransacked President Morales’ home. Morales is currently living in exile in Mexico City, his new asylum home. Now, those who were concerned about the new right-wing government are troubled to learn of Salinas’s arrest in what they perceive as a violation of free speech. Salinas, herself, was worried before she was even arrested. She deactivated her account just days before her arrest for fear of her own personal safety after receiving numerous death and rape threats.
The new government actions are prompting civilian debate about whether it’s okay for the government to censor and arrest citizens for sharing differing political views.
María Alejandra Salinas ran the meme account Suchel, which reached over 10,000 followers until she shut it down.
A graduate student in feminist studies at La Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Salinas decided to join the mass protests after the forced resignation of former Bolivian President Morales. She protested in her own way by creating a digital meme account called Suchel that garnered 10,000 followers since Morales’ exile on Nov. 10. If you’re reading this, you probably already understand the art of the meme. Using humor to give cutting insight into political opinions, #Suchel became emblematic of an Internet subculture of Bolivia’s pro-Morales, pro-Indigenous movement.
The government’s move to arrest Salinas only seems to validate Suchel’s followers’ concerns: that the state is seeking to maintain its power by any means necessary, including violating free speech rights.
Others are celebrating the arrest of Salinas, calling her a “digital warrior” seeking to “destabilize the government of our President Jeanine Añez.”
A Facebook group called “¡El 21-F SE RESPETA!” that had reached an equal size to Suchel’s leftist group is celebrating her arrest. The right-ist group seems to also employ the same use of memes to spread their political ideology. Still, members are celebrating Salinas’s arrest, claiming that she “comes from a bourgeois family that enjoys the honey of capitalism and defends socialism.”
Meanwhile, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) reported that a bot campaign was employed by far-right government factions to influence public opinion in their favor. The CIDH found that 68,000 fake accounts posted over 1 million tweets during a week-long period before, during, and after the coup. Suchel became one of the few authentic informative accounts that indigenous and liberal Bolivians could rely on.
“They say that I promote hate, indoctrinate people,” Salinas later wrote in a social media post. “This is just a page that doesn’t even reach 10 percent of the population in Bolivia. I have no power over people,” she added.
According to Salinas, four men physically assaulted her and threatened to rape her if she didn’t give them her phone password.
Four men who knew that Salinas was the Suchel administrator ganged up on her and physically held her down in front of two police officers. When she refused to give them her cell phone code, they attempted to rape her. Later, when she confronted the police officers who “did nothing,” they told her “it was my fault because I had not listened to them,” according to a shocking social media post in Spanish (pictured above). Salinas was already the victim of sexual assault and death threats and deserved protection rather than persecution. On Dec. 28, Salinas announced that she would be shutting down the Suchel accounts for fear of her and her family’s safety. “Due to the lack of guarantees, I decided today to close Suchel on Facebook, at least until I am sure that my life and that of my family is not at risk,” Salinas posted to Suchel, according to Pagina Siete. Three days later, she was arrested.
In a public statement in Spanish, CIDES demanded that “the corresponding authorities give the unrestricted respect for [Salinas’] rights during the legal process that is being carried out and taking into account the risks that due to the gender condition usually involve in these cases,” according to a local outlet.
Already, Suchel 2.0 accounts have popped up on several social media platforms.
The government’s attempt to control the online narrative of its administration’s rise to power and subsequent human rights violations appears to be unsustainable. While Salinas remains detained by authorities disdainful of her political views, Bolivians continue to raise their voices and seek community on and offline.