Who are some of the most famous and powerful women from Bolivia? Check out our tribute to the inspiring women of Bolivia and find inspiration!
Gender Inequality in Bolivia as of This Day
Unfortunately, regarding gender equality, Bolivia is still falling behind compared to other countries. Even if the Constitution gives women equal rights, they still face daily struggles and discrimination.
For example, Bolivian men are more likely to get a better education, and they usually get higher-paid jobs as well as better health care. Also, Bolivia is home to the highest rates of domestic violence. Moreover, women face constant sexism and machismo along with lots of gender-based stereotyping.
But, some Bolivian women have truly stood out in the world. They have challenged the Bolivian people and the world to reconsider the unfair treatment of women. The women on our list have accomplished incredible feats, and they can encourage others to take a similar path!
La Campeón — Carmen Rosa
In the 2000s, women were facing a lot of domestic violence. Indigenous women started to wrestle in order to escape the violence in their homes. However, a male promoter saw a financial opportunity in this. He started to encourage indigenous Bolivian women to wrestle professionally in traditional clothing. Obviously, his goal was to keep all the profit from public wrestling matches.
However, Carmen Rosa, a wrestling pro, decided to change things. She formed the Fighting Cholitas, an indigenous wrestling foundation for women. Nicknamed La Campeon or the Champion, Carmen Rosa not only inspired women to take up a violent sport. She competed for a worthy cause to fight against male-centric culture and domestic violence.
The Fighting Cholitas were encouraged to wear signature “cholitas” outfits that are a part of Bolivian cultural heritage. Carmen Rosa and her wrestlers quickly became famous in Bolivia and around the world. Currently, she is retired, but she still uses her status and influence for political activism.
Cholita Mountain Climbers
Similar to Carmen Rosa, the Cholita Mountain Climbers also took up a tough, male-focused sport, and they managed to shock the world in 2015.
This group formed when one middle-aged Aymara woman had a situation with her husband. While asking her husband about what it felt like to climb the colossal Illimani mountain, he told her, “Why don’t you see for yourself?” Out of frustration, the woman gathered a group of friends. They decided to climb Illimani’s highest peak. Its height is approximately 21,100 feet!
The fearsome group consisted of 11 cholitas from La Paz. They decided to climb several Bolivian mountains wearing their traditional attire. That includes the Acotango and the Huayna Potosi. Also, they moved on to climb various other mountains in Latin America. Their most notable expedition happened in early 2019 when they climbed the Aconcagua in Argentina.
El Alto Mayor Soledad Chapeton
Back in 2015, the city of El Alto and the whole of Bolivia got its first female mayor. Soledad Chapeton has been a massive inspiration for Bolivian women ever since. Namely, Soledad Chapeton was nicknamed “le Sole” or the sun due to her skills in politics and law.
Chapeton single-handedly brought down the prevailing corruption in her city. She uncovered various forms of corruption within the city’s law enforcement and politics. All the while, she was put down by male politicians for not being competent enough.
Fortunately, Chapeton was strong enough to see past her male colleagues’ discrimination. Aside from solving many of El Alto’s corruption issues and focusing on community development, she’s also an advocate for women’s rights. Chapeton has made numerous positive efforts to combat domestic violence and support motherhood.
Shockingly, she was targeted by Evo Morales’ authoritarian regime and was attacked by a mob in order to force her to resign. Fortunately, Chapeton survived and continued to fight for democracy. In 2019, she played a major role in uncovering Morales’ electoral fraud.
Hip-Hop Crew Santa Mala
After years of living in the lowest circles of poverty in El Alto, three sisters (Abigal, Jenny, and Pamela Llangue) decided to leave Bolivia. The Santa Mala sisters fled to Brazil and found some work in a textile factory. Their work inspired them to create their own fashion enterprise inspired by hip hop. First, they spent years while learning their craft and eventually launched a successful fashion brand.
After that, the Santa Mala became an actual hip-hop crew. They began to encourage female youth culture through live hip-hop shows. That way, they became famous across Latin America.
The group can serve as a great example for all Bolivian women who want a career in the arts. While rapping, the Santa Mala crew focuses on lyrics that express female empowerment and gender issues.
Feminist Adela Zamudio
Adela Zamudio is one of Bolivia’s most famous women. Zamudio was originally a poet who founded the country’s feminist movement. She penned a variety of literary works, and she faced daily discrimination because of her craft. Zamudio put her frustration in writing and criticized the social norms in her works, often using the pseudonym “Soledad.”
What’s more, she founded Feminiflor, one of the first feminist magazines in Bolivia, and created the first art school in the country. And she didn’t stop there. Zamudio fought for democratic reforms as well as for women’s rights. She played a key role in legalizing divorce. Due to her efforts, the country now celebrates her birthday on the 11th of October as the Day of Women in Bolivia.
President Lidia Gueiler Tejada
Lidia Gueiler Tejada was one of the first female presidents in history. Back in 1979, she served as the country’s president on an interim basis after a military coup. Her interim tenure lasted for a year. Tejada was given the task of organizing the country’s upcoming elections.
Sadly, she was overthrown by an authoritarian cousin shortly during another violent coup. After that, Tejada fled to France. She returned only when the dictatorship collapsed. Even though her tenure was short, she managed to inspire a lot of Bolivian women and shortly served as an example of democracy and its values.
Fashion Designer Beatriz Canedo Patiño
Beatriz Canedo Patiño is also known as the “Queen of Alpaca.” She was Bolivia’s most successful and most famous fashion designer. She was a powerful figure in the global fashion world. Even though she passed away in 2016, her legacy lives on.
Beatriz Canedo Patiño became famous when she made unique designs with materials from camelid fibers inspired by indigenous art. Patiño even created outfits for famous figures like Hillary Clinton and the Pope. Even though she originally formed her company in the United States, she returned to Bolivia a few decades ago. There, she promoted her country, and her designs proudly emphasized a “Made in Bolivia” label.
Have the stories of these iconic Bolivian women inspired you to make the world a better place? If all of us follow in their footsteps, we could finally end discrimination and encourage gender equality!