Jim McMahon

Crowds in Bolivia are flocking to wrestling matches featuring proud, well-dressed indigenous women known as cholitas. Although the body slams, headlocks, and take-downs are mostly choreographed, just as in American pro wrestling, what is absolutely real is the respect the women are finally winning after long facing racism and discrimination. For generations, cholitas weren’t allowed to go to college, work in most professions, or even walk in certain neighborhoods. But recently, new laws and policies have begun protecting their rights. Indigenous women are now able to attend college and pursue careers. At the same time, cholitas are becoming more accepted in society, in part because of wrestling. When they started about 15 years ago, the ring became the rare place where cholitas could express themselves. The crowds grew, and these days, the women earn twice as much as the male wrestlers who spar with them. Although there’s still a long way to go, many say they’re hopeful about the future. “I really think that one day we can have a cholita president,” Jenny Jara, an indigenous woman, told Vice. “It’s a dream for us.”