Climbing Cholitas

  • Photographer
    Todd Antony
  • Prize
    2nd Place / People /Traditions / Culture
  • Company/Studio
    Todd Antony Photography
  • Date of Photograph
    07/06/19

These are the ‘Climbing Cholitas’ A group of Bolivian Aymara indigenous women who are breaking stereotypes. In January of this year they summited the 22,841ft peak of Mt Aconcagua. The highest mountain outside of Asia. & did so eschewing traditional climbing clothing in favour of their traditional, vibrant, billowing dresses. Until recently, Bolivia’s indigenous Aymara women were socially ostracised and systematically marginalised. The word ‘Cholita’ has previously been used as a pejorative term for the indigenous Aymara women of Bolivia. But these woman are reclaiming it as a badge of honour

Story

These ladies are the ‘Climbing Cholitas’ or ‘Cholitas Escaladoras Bolivianas’. A group of Aymara indigenous women who are breaking stereotypes and shifting perceptions. In January of this year they summited the 22,841ft peak of Mt Aconcagua. The highest mountain outside of Asia. And did so eschewing traditional climbing clothing in favour of their traditional, vibrant, billowing dresses, and using their traditional shawls to carry equipment rather than backpacks. The word ‘Cholita’ has previously been used as a pejorative term for the indigenous Aymara women of Bolivia. But these woman are reclaiming it as a badge of honour. As recently as 10 years ago, Bolivia’s indigenous Aymara women were socially ostracised and systematically marginalised. Known as ‘cholitas’, these women, recognisable by their wide skirts, braided hair and bowler hats, suffered racial discrimination and were banned from using public transport and entering certain public spaces. Since the 2005 election of Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first Amerindian president, the majority indigenous population have seen greater recognition and autonomy. In 2014, after years of helping mountaineers achieve their summit goals, eleven of these female Aymara porters and cooks strapped on crampons and swapped their high bowler hats for helmets to start climbing peaks themselves, all while wearing their traditional wide, puffy skirts and plaited hair. Though they managed several impressive summits in their four year stint, all in traditional Aymara dress, the women had one main objective all along. Since the beginning, the cholita climbers’ goal was to stand atop Aconcagua. Now, after countless years of portering and cooking, and four years of preparing on lower peaks, five of the cholita climbers have summited the peak. Lidia Huayllas Estrada, Dora Magueño Machaca, Ana Lía Gonzáles Magueño, Cecilia Llusco Alaña and Elena Quispe Tincutas successfully scaled Aconcagua in January of 2019.

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