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The Challenge: The cholita climbers of Bolivia

Climbing Cholitas’ are a remarkable group of Aymara indigenous women. Their objective extends beyond conquering mountain peaks; they are determined to break stereotypes.

These women, hailing from Bolivia in Latin America, demonstrate immense strength and unwavering conviction as they scale towering mountains, inspiring others both within their region and beyond.

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The cholita, or chola, is a term used to describe indigenous Aymara women in Bolivia. Unfortunately, In the very recent past, these women have experienced discrimination, facing bans on certain public areas, public transport, as well as limited career opportunities, in some places this term is used in a derogatory manner towards the native population and those with indigenous mestizo features, and it is often associated with women of lower social class and rural backgrounds who wear their traditional clothing.

Since the 1960s, these women have been organizing and advocating for their civil rights.

Their movement gained momentum with the election of Evo Morales as Bolivia’s first indigenous president in 2006. The term “cholitas” is commonly used in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru to refer to these women, who are easily identifiable by their wide skirts, braided hair, and bowler hats.

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Alicia Quispe, renowned as the pioneering Cholita woman to conquer the summit, had previously served as a porter and cook, aiding tourists who ventured to ascend the mountain. In December 2015, she embarked on a personal expedition alongside her husband, who acted as her guide, as well as her son and cousin.

Subsequently, others followed in her footsteps and joined the Cholitas Climbing Bolivia Association, where they underwent training. Presently, there are 5 cholitas who have been trained to undertake guiding and support duties, They climb mountains up to 6,962 meters above sea level. The impact of this endeavor has been immensely significant for them, as it has led to an improvement in their income and overall quality of life.

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They have been challenging and overcoming various obstacles.

Clad in their customary garments, encompassing gaiters, blankets, and aguayos, the cholita climbers embrace the trials of the terrain, the arduous mountainous environment, the extreme altitude, and the scarcity of oxygen as integral aspects of their expedition.

Their objective extends beyond conquering the summit; it encompasses dispelling stereotypes and forging a profound connection with nature. Over the past few years, this collective of Aymara women has triumphantly scaled prominent peaks, emerging as emblems of the indigenous women’s fight for recognition and parity.

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