Veteran cholita wrestler Jennifer Dos Caras, 45, competes in the ring with Randy Four (Picture: AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Meet the Fighting Cholitas of Bolivia.
The traditional sport involves taking to a wresting ring in traditional billowing skirts, bowler hats and leather shoes.
Watching the women, who come from the indigenous nation of Aymara in the Andes, has become a must-see for tourists and photographers.
Over time, the number of competitors has dwindled to just seven, but one of the most famous, Reyna Torrez, 29, the ring name of Leydi Huanca, is training a new cohort of wrestlers, ages 16 to 19, in hopes of keeping the sport alive.
‘I love those leaps of Reyna, and it’s a dream that she’s teaching us,’ said 17-year-old Nieves Laura Tarqui, who wrestles as Nelly Pankarita, a last name that means ‘Little Flower’ in Aymara.
Pankarita and the other trainees are still a year away from their full professional debuts while training in matches against the established athletes.
‘It’s hard to wrestle,’ said 19-year-old Noelia Gonzalez – aka Natalia Pepita. ‘You need a lot of bravery, strength and training to make a good fight. We fall and we hurt, but that doesn’t matter because the public has fun.’
As a match is about to start, the contenders peer into a mirror, apply makeup and perfume and then enter the ring dancing to folkloric music.
Cholita wrestler Natalia Pepita, 19, is held down by fellow fighter in training, Wara, 22 (Picture: AP Photo/Juan Karita)Moves include strangling competitors with their own pigtails, flying kicks to the chest and pinning people to the floor.
‘The girls who want to do this sport have to have guts, will, because this is a sport that demands a lot of discipline,’ Reyna said.
About 50 young women are training at three schools to take up the sport, some at an institution known as Independent Wrestlers of Enormous Risk.
‘Time is passing, and you have to make way for a new generation,’ said Benjamin Simonini, director of the school in the sprawling highlands city of El Alto, which has seen a boom in recent years and where the Fighting Cholitas have emerged as a tourist attraction.
Tatiana Monasterios of the city’s tourist department said the shows ‘also assert the role of the Ayamara woman, showing her as enterprising, that she, too, can take part in a risky sport.’
Veteran cholita wrestler Leydi Huanca strikes a fighting pose for a portrait before entering the ring (Picture: AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Young cholita wrestler Nelly Pankarita (Picture: AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Young cholita wrestler Lucero la Bonita (Picture: AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Wara puts her makeup on before competing in the ring (Picture: AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Leydi Huanca, 29, dances as she enters the ring area (Picture: AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Wara, left, and Natalia Pepita compete (Picture: AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Natalia la Pepita, 19, lifts her trainer Reyna Torrez, 29, as they compete in the ring (Picture: AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Dona Chevas, 16, top, holds the legs of her rival, fellow trainee Simpatica Sonia, 24, as they compete in the ring (Picture: AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Tourists film cholita wrestlers in the ring (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
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