One of the things that people say you must go see in La Paz is the Cholitas wrestling. Rumours fly around that it is this weird mix of Mexican wrestling with midgets thrown in and that it’s a brilliant night out. I’m not a fan of wrestling for the most part, but decided that I must give it a shot, as well, you can’t miss Midget wrestling can you! When I made the decision, I didn’t realise how great an idea it actually was, nor how much fun I’d have!
It started out in a little tour agency in San Pedro where i handed over B$80 (~£7.50) and then hung around for twenty minutes or so until the buses left at 15:00 – they would have picked me up at my hostel, but by the time I’d got back, the bus would be waiting for me. As it turned out, the first stop was the Loki and Wildrover hostels (the hostels for the Uni students on Gap Years who simply want to party none-stop) so there was an influx of twenty somethings onto the bus, all speaking English and all ready for a great time. Everyone was really friendly and I immediately started chatting to a couple of American Firemen. As more and more people climbed onboard the bus it was evident it was going to be a great night and that I’d made a brilliant decision – all these people to chat to! Unfortunately, I had to move buses to the one which toured the hostels (given I wasn’t in the “popular” place) and this second bus was full of drunken louts but thankfully also a couple of Aussies whom were equally dismayed by the populace.
When we arrived at the venue, it was simply a warehouse / slaughter house converted for the evening. It was dark, dank, smelled of something indeterminable and was complete with a baying audience. After a very short period of time, the announcer arrived on stage and started shouting out in Spanish. Then the Rocky theme tune played out and the first wrestlers appeared.
For the most part, you couldn’t quite call it wrestling, it was more a pantomime (complete with “he’s behind you calls”). The wrestlers were a mixture of women (who after parading around the ring were out of breath and couldn’t climb in), out of shape men and costumed characters. The “fighting” was obviously staged with stamping on the floor replacing physical contact and whilst it wasn’t choreographed, you could see the “wrestlers” putting themselves into position and then nodding to their opponent in order to play out the next move. It was even as bad as the referee taking a side and helping attack the underdog. There was fake blood and help from the audience to “carry” away the “injured” wrestler. I say “carry”, the injured lady was fairly ample in stature and had to help the helpers by shuffling across the ring on her bottom. There were a couple of proper wrestlers using moves fans would recognise, but to be honest, that was the worst part, it was the pantomime that entertained.
It was brilliant. In the time I’ve been travelling, I’ve never laughed so openly and hard – everything about the event was ridiculous. It was so very, very bad and yet brilliant at the same time.
The audience too were great. Around the ring you had the Gringos laughing away and joining the locals in throwing sweets, popcorn and fruit at the wrestlers. People were roaring away yelling insults and the wrestlers would retaliate by leaping on the the barriers and yelling back. One local in particular was really into the arguments and spent the night shouting at the wrestlers much to our amusement.
Towards the end of the evening the act continued with a “mummy” arriving and the referee and lady wrestler fighting him. It all ended in organised mayhem with the wrestlers ending up in the audience, plastic chairs flying everywhere, Gringo’s scattering, cameras flashing and the mummy getting set on fire.
We all then quickly piled back on the buses, headed back to our Hostels. A quick turn around for me and I wandered across to the Wildrover for a quick pint and pizza (though mine was a pint of coke due to a dodgy tummy).
It was a brilliant night and highly recommended though do take your confuddled hat – it’s much more fun to not understand what on earth is going on!
More pictures of Cholitas Wrestling can be found in the Digitallery album South America – Bolivia – La Paz
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