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. The dainty patent-leather
shoes favored by cholitas 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.