Women in traditional dress skating over concrete ramps on their boards: This is just a typical afternoon at the “SENAC” skate park in Cochabamba, Bolivia's third-largest city. The skaters are part of ImillaSkate, a collective founded in 2019 by the then 23-year-old skateboarder Dani Santiváñez and her friends. The word “Imilla” means "young woman" in Aymara and Quechua, the two most widely spoken indigenous languages in Bolivia.
In keeping with this title, the skaters wear vans or sneakers alongside embroidered blouses and polleras, the traditional wide, colourful skirts from the Andean highlands. Their style is reminiscent of the “cholas”, the indigenous women from Bolivia and Peru who adapted the fashions of the Spanish occupiers. While the term “cholita” is often used pejoratively, the skaters aim to reclaim it and imbue it with positive connotations. This new take on their indigenous roots sends a strong signal for diversity and inclusion in a society where they remain sidelined.
”The skaters wear vans or sneakers alongside embroidered blouses and traditional colourful skirts from the Andean highlands”
The SENAC skate park in the Pacata Alta neighbourhood in the north of Cochabamba is their favourite meeting place, even if it is a little run-down with the concrete already crumbling in places. Since the area was created to replace “El Niño”, a now demolished skate park in the city centre, the keen skaters have been spending most of their free time here.
This is partly because of its peace and quiet, not to mention the stunning views of the city and the sunset. There are usually a few street dogs roaming around and very now and then a passer-by strolls past, pausing briefly to watch and chat with the skaters.