Cholitas, or indigenous Bolivian women, have a style all their own, the
elements of which reflect a multitude of historical influences. Take the
vibrant pollera, for example,
typically worn on top of crinoline-style underskirts called centros. It’s said that this look was
the result of traditional Spanish dress combining with an indigenous love of
bright color. Shawls also reflect the Spanish imprint, while the manta, a woolen textile worn wrapped
around the shoulders, is 100% pure Andean. Dainty patent-leather shoes are a
more modern twist, while long, traditionally plaited hair, crowned with mini
felt bowler hats, or “bombins” completes the outfit.
Legend has it that this last appurtenance came into being when a group
of Europeans brought over to the work on the railroad ordered a shipment of
bowler hats from the UK that arrived many sizes too small. The workers gave
them out to these resourceful, indigenous women, who put them on, tipped them
at a jaunty angle, and went about their business.