As I noted in my second ever post, well before my trip started, I have a strange obsession with Mexican Wrestling. And so I was gutted when swine flu put paid to my chances of getting to see some while I was there. So of course I was over the moon when I found out that a very similar style of wrestling is practiced in Bolivia.
So excited was I that I timed my arrival in La Paz to make sure I’d get to go – as it’s only on once a week, on a Sunday. So no sooner than I’d arrived in my hostel in the city, I hopped straight on a bus back out of town, all the way up the canyon to El Alto, home of the legendary Cholita’s Wrestling.
What a show it turned out to be. As tourists paying a bit of a premium, we got front show seats and the opportunity to be right next to the ever more bizarre antics going on in (and out) of the ring.
Each bout started with a fair bit of grandstanding and audience baiting by each participant (sadly even with my ever-improving Spanish, they still spoke far too quickly for me to get most of it, but whatever they were saying got lots of cheers and boos from the mostly Bolivian crowd). Each fight followed a pretty predictable narrative, with the ‘goodie’ getting the upper hand early on, before swinging the other way; normally the referee would join in at some point too, and the action would normally spill out of the ring.
The penultimate round included one of the indigenous women returning a second time (she seemed to be a bit of a crowd favourite), partnered with a large cat, against an army general, and, because this was supposed to be a mixed sex bout, one of the male wrestlers in drag. All pretty chaotic and absolutely hilarious.
The final bout was the strangest yet – the oldest wrestler we’d had so far, fighting against ‘the black mummy’. The action in this round very quickly left the ring, and had the two fighters smashing all manner of things across each other’s heads and backs – a flourescent light tube, planks of wood, plastic chairs and so on – before it finally got completely out of control when the black mummy started ripping up the chairs and chasing the crowd round the gym, all to much screaming and laughter.
You can see all of my photos of La Paz and my night out at Cholita’s here.