Female skateboarding collective breaks stereotypes in Bolivia: ‘I love this sport’

Women in Bolivia are honoring their indigenous Aymara heritage while breaking gender stereotypes. 

ImillaSkate is a skateboarding collective made up of young women from La Paz. The athletes sport traditional pollera skirts, bowler hats or the dresses their Aymara grandmothers have passed down to them, while skating.

“I love this sport, I love my culture and I love being a woman, and that is what motivates me to continue,” one of the skaterboarders, Ayde Choque, told the Associated Press. “It’s to keep our identity and our culture … to appreciate that culture and sports at the same time.”

ImillaSkate is just one collective that’s part of a larger movement in Cochabamba that started in July 2020. The skateboarders rocking traditional garments inspired girls across the country to follow suit. 

Aymara women usually wear ankle-length layered skirts, embroidered blouses and shawls, with long braids and a bowler hat.

“The world will know that in Bolivia there are women who do it,” said skateboarder Milenda Limachi. “We love our culture, and love what we do.”

The Aymara are one of the largest indigenous groups in Bolivia. But their status has long made them targets of bigotry and discrimination. Nevertheless, they have held onto their traditions and express their cultural identity through clothes. However, the bowler hat or borsalino is relatively new for the culture, first appearing at the turn of the 20th century seemingly by accident. 

“A large shipment of hats was ordered from Europe for railway workers, but they were too small. Rather than send them back, the hats were given to the local women. Some versions of the story say the women were told wearing the hat would help with fertility, others that a savvy hat merchant marketed them to the women as being all the rage in Europe,” according to National Geographic

If you enjoyed this story, check out this all-female mariachi band challenging gender norms.

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