Cholita’s Wrestling in La Paz
There are few things in this world funnier than what I witnessed in La Paz, Bolivia’s sister city El Alto. It was one of those lazy Sunday afternoons where I was nursing a hangover and was feeling too hazy to really accomplish anything. We had heard of the unusual sport of Cholita’s Wrestling in El Alto and jumped in a taxi with our mates Markus and Aldo to see what entertainment 5 bucks would buy us. What we would witness in the 3 hours to follow would snap us out of our hungover haze and have us in stitches and leave us with great memories.
Outside the old warehouse-come-wrestling stadium we looked to the large billboard at the masked men and women of the ring with their fabulous names; Magnifico, Martha la Furiosa and Lobo Negro. I was instantly reminded of Jack Black in the movie Nacho Libre.
Inside we settled in at the front row and waited behind the steel barricade for the action to begin. The first wrestlers were not the Cholitas, the traditional women of Bolivia who wear their hair in 2 long plaits and have large colourful dresses and bowler hats. No, it was a couple of male wrestlers, one dressed like a skeleton and another with Nacho Libre style mask brightly coloured in a kind of sweat capturing plastic which I suspect was made by his mother. The wrestlers no matter how ridiculous they looked actually turned out to be quite good at a few moves and with the animated referee jumping in on the action to tag team one wrestler we were off to a good start. I have always thought wrestling to be a ludicrous sport full of bad acting and pretending and I was right for the most part until the afternoon progressed in to a few hardcore moves which would question my beliefs.
A couple of big guys came out next and as the poor acting continued the moves got progressively more complicated and daring. The two men jumped from the top ropes onto each other, pulled of suplexes and clotheslines. Then in a spectacular feat of stupidity and commitment to the art of wrestling one man executed a running superman jump through the ropes and out of the ring. Leaping almost 3 meters out of the ring he landed on his victim with an almighty crash against the shell barricade. As the seconds ticked on it soon became apparent that this man had done some serious damage to himself and when some gringo decided it would be funny to chastise and poke him through the fence he became angered. The man stood up on what looked like an injured leg and proceeded to give the gringo a brilliant slap across the face and abuse him in Spanish. Now this is where I felt I was getting my moneys worth!
Things only got more exciting from this moment on and soon it was time for those traditionally clothed cholitas to perform. Out they came to their chosen music, just as the professional American wrestlers do, dancing around the ring and taking both cheers and taunts from the crowd. Once in the ring they began pulling each other’s hair and slamming heads on the deck or crash tackling each other as they bounced off the ropes. Dressed in the many layers of traditional skirts I wondered how they managed to perform such complicated tricks. It soon became apparent that one cholita was clearly winning at which point the loser’s ‘manager’ came out to protect her. Ganging up on the winning cholita they started to take charge. It was at this point when I realised this event was an absolute bargain providing every form of entertainment. The solo cholita had her own backup in the form of a midget! No great show in this world is complete without a ‘little person’ and one dressed in a wrestling mask is even better. The little guy came out swinging and was the best actor of the day. Sadly he did get overpowered and had his manhood stretched as the manager and cholita grabbed a leg each and pulled in opposite directions. In the end the little man and his cholita girlfriend did make a comeback and win which is the way things should be when a midget is involved.
So by the time the cholita’s and little man had left the ring we thought the show would be over but there was to be one more interesting surprise. Earlier we had seen a wrestler who must have been about 120kgs and 6’5″ who I suspect was on steroids. Now, he emerged dressed as a giant wolf. His large woolly head must have been hot as hell and made it difficult to get his bearings but the impairment didn’t stop him from destroying two wrestlers at one time. The wolf man was made extremely comical with the help of the man on the microphone who made growling noises for the entire fight, making sure to increase his groans in perfect time with the wolf’s actions. This was the clincher for me, now I had laughed at the sight of poor acting, traditional Bolivian women pulling each other’s hair, a PVC wearing little man and now a giant wolf complete with ‘mating call’ groaning. When the wolf managed to pick both guys up on his shoulders at the same time and slam them to the ground I knew I had spent both my money and my hungover Sunday afternoon wisely. There really is no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in La Paz.