Bolivia’s cholitas take an elegant step forward against discrimination

March 19, 2014

Cholitas of BoliviaBolivia’s indigenous cholitas are overcoming the worse excesses of discrimination

Indigenous people are victims of deliberate discrimination around the world. Some respite is earned as a modicum of economic wealth and cultural change occurs.

One such story from Bolivia is recounted in a BBC documentary [february 2014].

With their high bowler hats, puffed skirts and coquettish demeanour, they may look like they have stepped out of an early 20th century television costume drama, but cholas – or as they are affectionately known, cholitas – are very much a driving force in modern Bolivia.

Until recent decades, these indigenous Aymara and Quechua women – who can be easily identified by their distinctive, elegant outfits – could be refused entry to certain restaurants, taxis and even some public buses.
For generations, they were not permitted to walk freely in the capital La Paz’s central square, Plaza Murillo – home to the presidential palace – nor in wealthy suburbs like the city’s Zona Sur. Predominantly rural peasants who had migrated to the cities, they were seen as a lower strata who stayed in the home, or worked as servants or hawkers.

“They used to say, ‘chola, no no!” when we tried to go to those places,” says Carmen Mamani de Espejo, who sells flowers every Saturday at La Paz’s Rodriguez Market. “Now it’s much better for cholitas. We have more confidence now, we can walk where we like.”

After Evo

The culture change in Bolivia has accelerated since 2005 with the election of Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous President. Leading the change are the traditionally dressed women now acquiring the cool status of the fashion designer’s models. Interestingly the culture change seems, according to the BBC, primarily through the women who are more regularly to be seen in the up market area of La Paz where they were once excluded, cruelly barred, on racial grounds.

now they are stepping out making a political as well as cultural statement. Interestingly, the style has not spread to their male consorts who cling to their Western style suits.

the cool dudes from the Congo in a recent Guinness advert. gentlemen-of-bacongo-5[1]

Remember the sapeurs?

A gender reversal, but other ways with echoes of the fashion statement made by the sapeurs.

More images

You can see more images of Cholitas in this Fox News item


Luggage for Leaders:Hints from a style guru

June 30, 2012

If leadership is about impression management, you may find these style hints of interest

I’m not saying I agree, but here’s what style guru Nikolas Feireiss wrote in Berlin &I City Guide recently:

I know at least one luxury hotel in Berlin where the staff receives special training in how to identify what the luggage says about the guests’ life style…it takes some practice to recognise Goyard or Asprey. Louise Vuitton cases aren’t to be snubbed at, or Hermes. Creatives prefer aluminium Rimowa.

He suggests getting some customising to luggage to enhance the effect. A visit to a flea market will give you a the right sort of 1930s luggage label. And don’t forget the carefully-placed dent in that Aluminium suitcase (the luggage equivalent of the worn jeans effect?)

To be continued

Some comments on impression management: Rightly or wrongly, leaders are often highly sensititized to the impact of first impressions. I interviewed several who took great care to achieve a good first impact. They would also certainly endorse the style guru.

One selected his tie carefully to convey just the right level in the power relationship expected. Another would never be seated while waiting to meet someone for the first time. Influence through first impressions seems at most a means of avoiding a bad first mind-set. The more-so as increasing numbers of people become aware of the game being played.

This is the first post of several under development from Berlin, a great international city.