ImillaSkate: an indigenous Bolivian skateboarding collective – photo report | Bolivia

Jhe Bolivian »polleras“, the voluminous skirts commonly associated with indigenous women of the highlands, have for decades been a symbol of uniqueness but also an object of discrimination. Today, a new generation of skaters in Cochabamba, the country’s third largest city, wears them as a piece of resistance. The voluminous outfit has its origins in the Spanish conquest, in the 16th century. It was imposed on the indigenous population, but over the following centuries the garment became part of the local identity.

Since it symbolizes authenticity and stigma, dusting off polleras which once belonged to aunts and grandmothers seemed the obvious choice for Dani Santiváñez, 26, a young Bolivian skater who wanted to return to her roots. In 2018, she and two friends formed the female collective ImillaSkate “as a cry for inclusion”. Imilla means “young girl” in Aymara and Quechua, the two most spoken languages ​​in Bolivia, a country where more than half of the population has indigenous roots.

Visit to La Cancha Market
Visit to La Cancha Market
Visit to La Cancha Market
Visit to La Cancha Market

Visiting La Cancha Market is almost an anthropological experience, given that it is one of the most popular markets in Latin America. You’ll find everything from basic groceries to regional food, books, clothes, crafts, antiques and even the latest electronics – plus plenty of hacks. “It’s not just about wearing the pollera outfit is also about improving in the sport, doing new maneuvers. We started as regular skaters – over time we had this idea of ​​dressing like cholitas because it identifies us. Nowadays, it’s a fusion of the two things. For me, skateboarding means progress in my life,” says Deysi.

ImillaSkate visits the Misk'í Ñawisita store for the first time
ImillaSkate visiting the Misk'í Ñawisita store for the first time.

This store is considered by them to have the finest clothes in town. Some outfits can cost around $200 (£148). Belu says that at first she was surprised by the variety of colors and models of the blouses and pollera skirts. She was struck by the details of the accessories, which are pieces that highlight the beauty of the women of Cochabamba. “I was touched by the radical change of stronger colors, I felt like an empowered woman with the will to go out and shine, proud to wear a polleraexplains Belu.

Entrance to Pairumani Park - one of girls' favorite spots for skateboarding for its beauty.  This is a small descent located in Quillacollo on a road that leads to the Pairumani ecotourism park, on the outskirts of Cochabamba.

One of the girls’ favorite skate spots for its beauty is a short descent located in Quillacollo on a road that leads to the Pairumani ecotourism park, on the outskirts of Cochabamba. “We have a great variety of plants and trees here, which is why Cochabamba is called City Garden, which translates to Garden City,” says Dani. ImillaSkate wanted to share places that represent their city and the ever-present nature. The road is filled with trees emblematic of the flora of Cochabamba and it is also the area of ​​the plantation fields which are responsible for many agricultural work places for many people in the community.

Huara Medina Montaño (24) at La Minirampa - a private space that made friends with the old school skate movement in Cochabamba.

La Minirampa is a private space created by friends of the old-school skate movement in Cochabamba. As it is a self-funded project and requires maintenance, there is a voluntary contribution to skate there and also to help pay the rent. “ImillaSkate was introduced to this place by friends and we skate there from time to time as it’s not always open, but it’s an amazing place to be with close friends and have a great session.”

Huara prepares to train at
Huara Medina Montaño (24) Huara at Ollantay Park

Hairdressing is part of their cultural identity. They make it a ritual that is an integral part of their self-care and also a time when they can take time for themselves. While they brush their long hair, they cleanse each other of bad energies and brushing each other’s hair is also a way to keep a strong bond between them.

Skaters at Ollantay Park.

Built in 2019, on the initiative of the skate movement of Cochabamba and the “proyecto mARTadero”. It is located in La Coronilla, a city with a high crime rate, and the park was built there to renew and appropriate the public space that previously served as illegal bus parking. It was really neglected. ImillaSkate used the space even before its inauguration, and they continue to train there every day because it is a public space and not fenced. ImillaSkate started skate lessons there as a “OllantayWasi Skate School(Ollantay House skate school). It was mainly for local children, but their small school grew. “Ollantay is the first park dedicated solely to skateboarding, and has other areas for breakdancing and parkour, as well as a sports court.”

Daniela Nicole Santivañez Limache, 25 years old

“We are not different, we are all indigenous descendants,” Santiváñez says in reference to the nine women who are currently part of the group. They don’t wear the polleras everyday, but only for skating. Knee length and paired with sneakers, as has been the case in the past, the polleras adapted again and became a symbol. the Imillaswho train to participate in local tournaments, use this presence and their skateboards as a natural vehicle to empower women and spread their message of inclusion and acceptance of diversity.

Deysi Tacuri Lopez (27), started skateboarding around the age of 20.
Deysi Tacuri Lopez (27) – “I wear what I like.  My mother has a saying - I was born wearing a Pollera and I will die wearing one - and I carry on her belief.  I feel comfortable the way I am, wearing a Pollera.
Deysi Tacuri Lopez (27) – “I wear what I like.  My mother has a saying - I was born wearing a Pollera and I will die wearing one - and I carry on her belief.

Deysi started skateboarding around the age of 20. Even though she had some difficult falls, she still decided to continue practicing. She says skateboarding is an inner bliss for her, not just a sport but an activity that has changed her way of life and helps her in her daily struggles. She considers the pollera as an authentic and unique expression of its identity. “I wear what I like. My mother has a saying – I was born wearing a pollera and I will die wearing one – and I continue his belief. I feel comfortable as I am, wearing a pollera. Deyse intends to popularize skate culture in Bolivia, creating more opportunities for the new generation without losing sight of its roots. “It’s not just about wearing the pollera outfit is also to improve in the sport, to do new maneuvers. We started as regular skateboarders, over time we had this idea of ​​dressing like cholitas because it identifies us, today it is a fusion of the two things. For me, skateboarding means progress in my life,” says Deysi. Deysi won several medals in Chile and Bolivia, some for first place.

Brenda and Deysi (with cat).

Pollera women give extra importance to their hair because you will probably never see a cholita without hair. All of them have long, well-groomed hair because good braids are a must,” says Brenda. For Brenda, brushing is a way to get rid of sadness like her grandmother used to when she wanted to feel good again.

Joselin Brenda Mamani tinkled (27) and Lucia Rosmeri tinkled Quispe (46)

Brenda started skateboarding six years ago and felt it might give her direction, something to learn that would spur her to let go of her fears and step out of her comfort zone. She says, “It makes me feel empowered because I can go beyond my own limits and I can dare to do things that I never thought of, and so I can overcome my everyday fear.” For her, skating in pollera The outfits are a challenge in themselves as it is very difficult to skateboard with a bulky skirt, but she knows persistence and practice will help and she has improved her skills. For her, this activity represents her roots, where she comes from and who she is.

Huara teaches Deys' mother.

“I felt…skateboarding has influenced my life a lot, it has given me courage when I needed it the most. And that’s something that I wish I could share with other people, and that they could feel it for just a moment,” Huara says.

Luisa Zurita wearing her grandmother's Pollera

Luisa’s grandmother grew up in the pollera culture. She had seven children, five girls and two boys. His mother and aunts did not wear the polleras as part of their education. In 2016, Luisa started skateboarding but her family did not approve of her passion for the sport and forbade her to practice. She had to fight her own family to be able to continue. ImillaSkate was invited to appear on a popular local TV show, when her grandmother found out she was still practicing. Finally, after the TV show appeared, her grandmother gave her the blessing to pursue her dream and passed on to her one of her favorite pollerasthe one she chose to wear for skateboarding.

Comments are closed.