Bolivian ‘Cholitas’ fly on their skateboards in a series of portraits

Peruvian and Miami-based photographer Celia D. Luna sheds light on the modern indigenous women of Bolivia with her series Cholitas Bravas

Throughout history, Bolivian indigenous women have had an uphill battle. They have faced obstacles because they are women and of color, and they have also had to fight hard for the preservation of their culture.

As recently as 20 years ago, cholitas, originally a derogatory name for Quechua and Aymara women who sport traditional bowler hats, large, colorful skirts and long braids, faced ostracism in societies that uphold white, Catholic and European values.

The tide has begun to turn towards young Bolivian women who proudly integrate their ancestry into their daily lives while excelling in their personal endeavors. Peruvian and Miami-based photographer Celia D. Luna was inspired by her stories and set out to shed light on them with her Cholitas Bravas series.

After highlighting indigenous climbers and wrestlers, the photographer found herself drawn to a group of skaters in the city of Cochabamba. They became part of a new project within the Cholitas Bravas series: Cholitas Skaters.

“I was fascinated that they were doing an extreme sport that is generally dominated by men,” Luna says.

“Not only did they excel at skating, but they also embraced their culture by skating while wearing their traditional clothing. They are very proud of their ancestors and their heritage, which I also hold dear.

It was a combination of culture, beauty and challenge that I had to capture.”
Luna told her story from the very beginning. She spent her childhood immersed in the traditional Andean traditions that inform her work to this day while she was raised by a single working mother.

His mother’s resilience and dedication have been a source of strength and inspiration to the photographer throughout his life.

«One of the things I appreciated most about the Cholitas Bravas is their connection with their mothers and grandmothers. They mentioned how much they influenced their lives and how they have inspired them to be proud of their culture.”

Throughout the images, the jewel-toned colors of her garments shine amid the warm tones of the Cochabamba skate park.

While their skirts and braids take visual priority as they sway with the wind and their movements, these women know their sport very well.

It’s lovely to see a traditional outfit mixed with dedicated skate shoes, like Vans and Adidas sneakers. Each of his personalities also shine through in his choice of accessories, from Bart Simpson socks to custom skateboards.

For this project, Luna’s mother was more than one of the driving forces behind it; She also participated as the photographer’s assistant.

“It was very special to share this adventure with her. She also loves to travel so she was AT the time I asked her to come with me. She couldn’t help me too much with the equipment, but she made sure I was properly fed every day.”

Food, like clothing, was one element around which both the photographer and the subjects came together to brainstorm new ideas and celebrate their heritage.

«Before filming, we met in a restaurant where we shared a Piqué Macho, a traditional dish from Cochabamba.

I was the first to get there and it was really nice to see some of them skate to the restaurant in their skirts. I got to know them more.”

Luna learned of a documentary the skaters are working on, as well as their plans to travel around Bolivia to teach other women and girls how to skate.

“Skating has changed their lives and they want to share that same passion with other women.”
To stay up to date with Luna’s Cholitas Bravas series and her other work, you can follow her on Instagram.

She will be offering prints from her series on her online store in the future, so be sure to check her website for any updates.