"Welcome to lucha libre, freestyle wrestling with a Bolivian twist. This macho sport in this macho country, South America's most impoverished and conservative, has been flipped into an unlikely feminist phenomenon.
Indigenous women known as cholitas, physically strong from manual labour but long considered powerless and subservient, have become stars of the ring. They train like men, fight like men - and beat men.
"We have been discriminated against since the beginning for the simple fact of being women, and indigenous women at that," said Carmen Rosa, whose real name is Polonia Ana Choque. "Men used to mock us but we have come further than male fighters."
At a recent night-time bout in El Alto, an impoverished satellite city overlooking the capital, La Paz, the 38-year-old mother-of-two emerged bloodied but triumphant. The crowd applauded and young women and girls chanted: "Women on top, men below."
A ramshackle ring with pantomime theatrics in a near-freezing slum high in the Andes, with drunk men among the spectators, it was an incongruous scene for female empowerment and the subversion of gender cliches.
Yet it reflected a wider breakthrough for indigenous women. For centuries Spanish colonialists and indigenous patriarchs restricted cholitas to child-rearing and manual labour and denied them education. Strikingly visible in felt bowler hats, colourful shawls and multilayered skirts, they were a silent underclass.
That has begun to change. Since sweeping to power two years ago, President Evo Morales, the country's first indigenous leader, has championed the rights of the Aymara and Quechua majority, including women. Cholitas occupy many junior official posts and several senior ones in the government and judicial system.
"The system was made for us to be peasants all our lives," said Celima Torrico, Bolivia's first indigenous woman justice minister. "We have more space now but it is lamentable we were kept in the darkness for so long."
Bolivia remains patriarchal and girls and women still lag in literacy and opportunities compared to those in neighbouring Argentina and Chile, which have female presidents.
"There is still a lot of prejudice, violence and physical control over women," said Lourdes Montero, an indigenous women's rights activist. "It will take time. But cholitas know they need to fight [for their rights]. There's a resurgence of pride in the skirt."
The wrestling cholitas reflect the limitations and possibilities of this feminist surge. Conceived in 2001 to spice up traditional male-only bouts, they were presented as a novelty on par with fighting dwarves, with whom they shared billing. But gradually they became the main draw and there are now several dozen semi-professional female wrestlers. The most successful, such as Yolanda "the Loved One", Julia "from La Paz" and Ana "the Avenger", tour abroad.
They lift weights, hike mountains and practise half-nelsons, headlocks, piledrives and other moves under the guidance of coaches such as Daniel Torrico, a former champion known as Mr Atlas. The "skirted ones" earned respect, he said. "They train alongside men and we have seen that they can do a lot."
Some have also showed business agility. One group fired its male manager, who it accused of exploitation, and set itself up as "The Goddesses of the Ring", a band of touring cholitas with the motto: "Vengeance and victory in the ring."
"Men ate the cake and left us the crumbs," said Carmen Rosa, one of the founders. "But now we are united and advancing. The idea is to show that women can do this on their own."
On a good night The Champion, whose dimpled smile glints with gold teeth, earns £15. Not enough to abandon her day job of running a small store and making packed lunches but enough to persuade her husband, Oscar Cahuasca, to support her unorthodox career sideline. "It helps pay the bills," he said.
Rosa's daughter, Corina Quispe, 21, used to bite her lip in embarrassment when asked about her mother. "But then after she became the Champion and started touring abroad I started to feel very proud."
Some male wrestlers have welcomed women as agents of progress. "It shows that in this country we all have the same rights," said Angel Lopez, 19, also known as the Mummy, a character swathed in bandages who is delivered to the ring in a coffin.
But traditionalists are appalled. "The cholitas are not equal to men, they shouldn't be doing this. It's as simple as that," said Juan Carlos Acrapi, 28, who in the ring becomes the masked, bellowing, chest-thumping Eastern Hunter.
To a large extent bouts are choreographed pantomime but a recent contest between Eastern Hunter and Rosa turned serious when she cut her head. Furious, she flipped her opponent and tore off his mask, the ultimate humiliation. Climbing the ropes to address the ecstatic crowd, her face flushed with triumph, it was the cholita's turn to bellow: "Who is better? Men or women? Always women!"
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