Trip Start Sep 28, 2006
99Trip End May 04, 2007
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Around 3:30 pm, we all got into our private mini-van with our self-described "part-time translator" Jessie and headed to El Alto where the show was held. Jessie was great--he spoke perfect English, was really fun, and also happened to be an international guide with GAP travel. Why he was leading a group of tourists to a really trashy and ridiculous wrestling match is beyond me. Whatever, I didn't ask questions. On the way up, we picked up beer and candy (fight essentials) and stopped at a great look out point to snap some pictures of La Paz.
We got to the auditorium around 4:45 pm. It was a mob scene near the doors, and I was relieved to see that we were definitely the only gringos there. Jessie and the others were giving me some more details on what we were going to see, and the idea of watching Bolivian women and midgets fighting for an audience of gringos really did not sit well with me. Okay, a local audience did not make it acceptable either and of course we were there, but still, the local crowd somehow made it slightly less offensive. I guess not too many tourists know about this--I certainly didn't see it advertised anywhere. The stadium seats cost 10 bol, and our front row seats (plastic chairs that we carried in to form a single row around the ring) were 40 bol so I suppose the extra 30 bol that I paid were for transport, snacks (water, popcorn), and the fact that we got "VIP" treatment and were immediately let in before the hordes of locals as soon as we arrived. I definitely would have been a bit intimidated had I just arrived and tried to get in on my own, so I think it was worth it. Here we are in our special front row seats.
The show lasted a LONG time and was basically like a Bolivian version of World Wrestling Federation or whatever it is called these days, but a lot more random and messed up. I was a bit concerned about the fact that there were TONS of kids in the audience, as the show was really violent and essentially promoted domestic violence, but what can you do. Definitely made American TV look tame! During the first half, all of these different guys dressed up in costumes (Batman, a ninja turtle etc) fought each other in the ring. Apparently they fight every Sunday, which I suppose is why the audience was familiar with each character and treated them like minor celebrities. Much of the fighting was pretty staged (although I am SURE they were still hurting each other), and for the most part was fun to watch. A guy dressed up as a ghost came out first, went around flipping the audience off, and then stole Frasier's drink (he was in our group) and repeatedly took huge sips and spewed it all over us and other audience members. Definitely set the tone for the evening, as it ended up being a bit treacherous, or at least messy, sitting in the front row! Here is a shot from the first fight, which we watched while "Ice, Ice Baby" blasted over the speakers on repeat.
Finally the first cholita came out around 6:30 pm, and that is when the real craziness began. She was in traditional dress, bowler hat and all, and was fighting a man dressed up as a cholita who was carrying this plastic baby.
There were little breaks in between each fight, during which we chatted with some of the local kids, many of whom kept trying to get money from us. One little girl stood completely shell-shocked in front of us for an hour, as she had apparently (according to Jessie) never seen gringos before. The children were pretty funny--constantly throwing things (food, drinks, anything they could get their hands on) at the fighters, at other audience members, and at each other. Here is a shot of one kid trying to beat the mummy with some sort of pole or crowbar.
The next match was between two real women cholitas (not sure where transvestite cholita went off to). That was a nasty fight! Towards the end, they started beating each other outside of the ring and one of the cholitas flung the loser over the fence towards us.
The show kept getting weirder and weirder...especially once the midgets got into the ring. The first one to come out was this little guy dressed as a super hero,
A few minutes later, the military guy thrust the cholita into our row again.
The cholita ended up being the champion, and while she strutted triumphantly the older cholita vomited off the side of the ring and this huge guy dressed as a wolf swinging a massive metal chain ran around the auditorium and terrorized the audience, smashing chairs and tearing the fences apart. Basically all hell broke loose and everyone started running around like maniacs, including us as we didn't feel like getting a chain slammed into our faces. Total chaos. We finally left around 8:15 pm, traumatized, confused, and convinced that what we had just seen was the best and worst thing ever. On the way back to La Paz we stopped at another look out point to admire all of the beautiful glittering lights. It reminded me of my first night in South America, as my plane descended into Quito.
After running back to my hotel briefly to shower and change, I met up with the whole group at Sol y Luna for dinner and drinks. I spent most of the night chatting with Leon, who is a nice guy from London who, like me, quit his job and is hanging out in SA for an extended period of time. We checked out Luna, which had live music, and then Mongo's, the main gringo club. It was Sunday, but there was still a fairly decent crowd. I ran into Christian, the guy who was in my Quito home stay for a week, and his Danish friends again, as well as a ton of other people I recognized from my travels. Around 2:30 am I couldn't take the cigarette smoke anymore and caught a cab home. All in all it was an awesome day. I got some great pictures, met some fun new people, and had some very interesting experiences.