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Female skateboarders in Bolivia perform in traditional attire, defy social roles

They see our braided hair, high-top hats, pleated skirts, and skateboards. It removes the focus from the ideas imposed upon us. I am no longer simply the cholita who works at camp or the cholita selling something somewhere. I am not the stay-at-home cholita. I am the cholita who skates, who falls, and who breaks her chains.

Interview Subject
Daniela Nicole Santiváñez Limache, 26, of Cochabamba, Bolivia, studies commercial engineering and works as an assistant at a university. She belongs to the group called Imilla Skate.

Group members include Daniela Santiváñez, Huara Medina, Estefany Morales,
Brenda Tinta, Paola Meza, Belén Fajardo, Deysi Tacuri, Elinor Buitrago, and Fabiola Gonzales.
Background Information
The Bolivian indigenous women’s collective “Imilla Skate” was created by two friends in Cochabamba who wear traditional costumes to skate as a symbol of resistance. They wear the skirts of their mothers and grandmothers, and although they have been on skateboards for several years, in 2019 they began to skate to claim the inclusion of women in the sport.

This word Imilla comes from the Aymara language meaning “girl.” It is a group of young Cochabambas who have united the worlds to which they belong by birth and interest to find a unique identity. They dress in cholita attire with a tall hat, traditional braids on both sides of the head, wide skirts of ethnic motifs, and they wear shoes suitable for skating. The idea is to vindicate their indigenous roots, to give rise to a force or an engine that makes them feel powerful, to give them a voice, and to allow them to fly.

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia ꟷ I belong to a group called Imilla Skate. We are the Bolivian daughters and granddaughters of pollera women [pollera is an indigenous attire marked by pleated skirts]. Our shared identity unites us.

Imilla Skate brings together sport and culture. For us, the chola symbolizes the fight for freedom and independence. It represents the history of our people. This beautiful sport excludes no one.

Bolivian female skaters honor ancestry, establish a collective

Before Imilla Skate came into existence in 2019, each of us skateboarded separately. We wanted to create a group that skates together. At first, skating in skirts proves difficult. You cannot see your feet and must master tricks to avoid falling.

I remember our first meeting. We selected the day of the pedestrian, a celebration in in Bolivia in the Plaza Colon at the center of the city. Since the area excludes motorized circulation, people can go out into the streets and walkways to practice their sports.

We invited anyone who wanted to learn to skate and participate in our demonstrations. We encouraged participants not to be afraid of falling and explained that the essence of skateboarding includes learning in your own time. If you fall, get back up again, taking the steps necessary to understand the process.

In Bolivia, most people are known as mestizos (or of a shared mixed heritage including Spanish and indigenous).  This important sector of the population, indigenous people continue to experience discrimination. Skating in our traditional attire as cholas brings our ancestral legacy to streets and everyday life. From the country to the city, we carry the blood of all those who came before us.

I make no excuses for my ancestry or how I look. My grandmothers and great-grandmothers dressed as cholas. The women in my family passed these customs on to their daughters from generation to generation.

While skating, I enjoy the feeling of the wind touching my forehead. Friendship surrounds me. Skating as a chola feels like a superpower, and I see how the process transforms before my very eyes. I can fly with the momentum of the ramp. That is why I skate.

Imilla Skate honors the cholita heritage, pushes back against established social roles

When we started the group, we had two members. Now we have nine. We have known one another for a long time and our growth comes from our enthusiasm. The collective aim of Imilla Skate is to present our message, the language of which evolves. We could speak 1,000 words but we transmit our message through our movements instead. When people see us, they understand. They witness what we represent. The see a traditional woman skateboarding, falling, and getting back up again.

They see our braided hair, high-top hats, pleated skirts, and skateboards. It removes the focus from the ideas imposed upon us. I am no longer simply the cholita who works at camp or the cholita selling something somewhere, nor am I the stay-at-home cholita. I am the cholita who skates, who falls, and who breaks her chains.

Wearing the skirt proves the most difficult part of our performance when combined with performing tricks because we cannot see our feet, but we continue to share our message and encourage others to be a part of it.

We push against the roles society establishes and the social classes assigned to people based on place of origin and skin color. In recent times, people have begun to tear down these roles and social classes – refusing to be defined by stereotypes. We honor the legacy of our ancestors through the message of the Bolivian collective Imilla Skate. We turn heads.

Moving forward, our group seeks to establish a skate park and a skate school for girls – a place of belonging.

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Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.

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Image and Sound Designer, Integral Audiovisual and Journalistic Producer, writer, and teacher.

I started working when I was very young; Since 2001, I was a producer for different television programs, documentary films, radio, and generating creative content for different organizations and companies.

I won the award: "Nuevo Sudaca Border" with the microfiction book "Un Tigre con la Boca Abierta", for Eloisa Cartonera Editorial. I am passionate about telling stories and writing.