By Gabriela Garcia Calderon Orbe
The Royal Spanish Academy dictionary defines the word cholo or chola in its first entry as a “mestizo person with European and indigenous blood.” With the addition of the Spanish diminutive ending of -ita, the word becomes cholita, a term of endearment used in Bolivia for indigenous Aymara women who wear a bowler hat, distinctive skirt and blouse and a colorful shawl, with the hair tied back in two long braids down their backs.
The chola culture is also widespread in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Andes, although it is strongest in Bolivia.
The word was originally derogatory, a term used to refer to indigenous women who moved to the city and adopted the lifestyle of urban mestizos, but now refers to the women born in La Paz who embrace their indigenous identity.
Since 2014, Cholita is also the name of a fashion magazine in Bolivia. It’s been called the “Andean Vogue,” and its target audience is indigenous women who dress traditionally and are increasingly playing a more visible and powerful role in society.
The editor Ester Chaym explained in an interview with Spanish news agency EFE in October 2014 that if the magazine only focused on fashion, it would be boring for these “such hard-working, smart, entrepreneurial women so full of initiative.”
According to the article, which was picked up by media throughout the Spanish-speaking world, the monthly magazine was first published in July 2014. Chaym explained:
“It’s a magazine that proposes matriarchy as an alternative in order to make the world a thoroughly happy and prosperous place, perhaps it’s about time to change things up so that women are the ones that have the power.”
She also shared how she came up with the idea for the magazine:
“Chaym recalls that the idea of editing a magazine with these characteristics was first inspired by the spontaneous reaction of a German girl, who when she arrived in Bolivia and saw the women wearing the traditional shawls, skirts and bowler hats, exclaimed: “This country is full of princesses!”
The magazine’s team is made up of a group of cholitas who share their own experiences.
Credit: Global Voices, http://globalvoicesonline.org