The Empowerment of the Chola Paceña

24 Apr, 2019 | Adriana L. Murillo. A.

Lifestyle and The Arts

Photos: Changtse Quintanilla  

International modistas look to the Andes for inspiration

Without doubt, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of La Paz is the chola paceña. Characteristic of La Paz and other departments in the east of Bolivia, the mujer de pollera is proud and elegant, courageous and confident. What distinguishes these Bolivian indigenous women, especially Aymara women, is how proud they are of their identity.

The proud and confident chola paceña was recently showcased for international fashion representatives in La Paz at an event organised by the city municipality on 2 April 2019 at the Modesta Sanjinés museum. Attending were José Forteza, editor of Vogue and GQ magazines (Mexico); Cristina Chamorro, digital editor of Vogue (Mexico); Patrick Duffy, Global Fashion Exchange correspondent (United States); Luisa Fernanda Moreno, L’Officiel correspondent (Argentina); Mexican photographer Aldo Decaniz; and German fashion designer Samuel Acebey. Bolivian women showed off their best outfits on the runway in a beautiful and elegant fashion show in front of Bolivian designers such as Ana Palza, Pamela Aliaga, Rosario Sanjinés, Amanda Aliaga, Zulma Choque, Jacqueline Sepúlveda, Iván Cusi, Reyna Quispe and Erika Centellas.

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Guests were impressed by the colours and the refinement in the clothing details, but, above all, one could sense the pride that cholitas carry in the way they walk, smile or wear their accessories. ‘It is impressive how colourful the outfit of the chola paceña is,’ the German fashion designer Samuel Acevey said. ‘And it is powerful…it is what she wears every day.’ The chola paceña is becoming more and more a fashion icon and a symbol of empowerment for Bolivian indigenous women. ‘I think it is very important to show where Latin American cultures come from,’ Vogue’s Cristina Chamorro said. ‘Today I saw a woman who is proud to wear the clothes she wears. I love seeing so much tradition on the catwalks. I saw a lot of the structure in the [construction of the] pieces—in the clothes, the hairstyle, the level of detail that they have in the shoes.’

But cholitas are more than a fashion icon; they play different roles in society and can’t be reduced to one single stereotype. We have reached a point in the history of Bolivia where it is impossible not to turn our gaze towards the indigenous woman and the challenges they face today.


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I have also watched this cholitas. The fashion is comprised with a colorful pleated skirt worn over layers of petticoats, an embroidered shawl held by a brooch, and a small bowler hat. It has now become popular with both locals and tourists.
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