Tuesday, 7 January 2014

James Morgan | Cholita

Cholitas are everywhere in La Paz and throughout Bolivia. They are indigenous women who tend to wear full skirts lined with petticoats, pigtails, colorful shawls draped on their shoulders, and bowler (called "bombin") hats. The wearing of such hats came about in the early 1920s, when it's said that a large shipment arrived from the United Kingdom for railroad construction workers, but they turned out to be too small.  Women liked the hats, and adopted them as a fashion statement of sorts.

However, the above very short documentary by James Morgan is about the wrestling cholitas. Every Sunday afternoon crowds gather at the stadium in El Alto, an immense suburb high above La Paz. The crowds consist of a mixture of indigenous locals and tourists, who've come to see wrestling. It's a Mexican-style lucha libre, during which wrestlers -in this case, women- wear traditional Bolivian bowler hats and flowing multi-layered skirts. It is one of the very rare occasions when a woman has equal status to a man in Bolivia, and these women are exceptionally proud of their achievements.

James Morgan is photojournalist and filmmaker based in London but works mostly across Asia, Africa and South America, shooting in depth features and advocacy campaigns for the WWF, BBC, Sunday Times, New York Times, Guardian, USAID and many others.

His work on Indonesia’s last sea nomads, won numerous awards and continue to be published and exhibited around the world. Recent work has included an investigative report looking at the links between international terrorism and the illegal wildlife trade, a behind the scenes look at an election race in Papua New Guinea and a group of indigenous female wrestlers fighting back against discrimination in Bolivia.