After spending about 10 days in Bolivia I thought I had seen it all. Dehydrated llama fetuses for good luck, guys in full zebra costumes directing traffic and witches markets selling all kinds of animal parts but nothing prepared me for the weirdest Bolivian experience of all.
While milling about in our hostel we noticed a poster for a Lucho Libre wresting match. The match featured wrestlers of all assortments but highlighted the fact that the traditionally dress Cholita women participated in the event. Figuring it would be a good value for entertainment (cost under $8 US for tickets) we head out of La Paz to the nearby town of El Alto to see the match.
A 45 min bus ride later, we arrived at the arena to find a huge lineup leading into a sky-lit room with an aged wrestling ring in the center. The all-age audience were seated in chairs behind a short fence surrounding the ring. After receiving our complimentary soda, tiny bag of popcorn and a souvenir ‘cholita wrestler’ toy, the match began.
The match lasted several hours with announcers shouting Spanish commentary while various costumed wrestlers charismatically taunting one another and performing impressive acrobatics in the ring. The crowd got really involved – throwing food and yelling at the performers. About three matches in, two Choilitas entered the scene and amazingly performed flips from the top rope, wrestling one another as well as the other male wrestlers. It was pretty wild to see them grabbing each other by the braids and swinging each other around, skirts and all.
As bizzare as it was to watch the Cholita’s beating one another with folded chairs as bottles of soda flew through the air spraying the arena, but the real surprise came with the final match of the evening. Just as I thought I’d seen it all, out stepped a set of two men dressed as Frankenstein. They were on the other side of the arena and I couldn’t quite see what they were doing, but the crowd started yelling and stepping back from them. As they rounded the side of the ring I could see they were carrying something that they were hitting the other wrestlers (and the more vocal audience members) with. Then I saw it…a dead lamb.
That’s right A DEAD LAMB, wrestlers were beating one another with a huge piece of raw meat. As they approached we jumped out of our seats and backed away. Another unfortunate soul from our hostel started mouthing off to them and actually got smacked with it. Gross. It was right about then that we decided we’d had enough excitement for one night and left to find the bus.
Was Lucho Libre and Cholita Wrestling a fun and reasonably priced entertainment? Yes. Just make sure you get out of there before things get TOO weird.