The Bolivian “polleras”, bulky skirts commonly associated with the indigenous women from the highlands, were for decades a symbol of uniqueness but also an object of discrimination.
Now, a new generation of women skateboarders in Cochabamba, the country’s third largest city, wears them as a piece of resistance. The voluminous attire has its origins in the 16th century, during the Spanish conquest. It was imposed on the native population, but through centuries the garment became part of the local identity.
Since it represents authenticity and stigmatization, dusting off the polleras that once belonged to aunts and grandmothers seemed the obvious choice for Dani Santiváñez, 26, a young Bolivian skater who wanted to reclaim her roots. In 2018, together with two friends, Dani created the female collective “ImillaSkate” as “a cry for inclusion”.
They don’t wear the polleras on a daily basis, but only for skating. Knee-length and paired with sneakers, as it happened in the past, the polleras adapted again and became a symbol. The Imillas, who practice to compete in local tournaments, use this outfit and their skateboards as natural vehicles to empower women and push their message of inclusion and acceptance of diversity.
Copyright photos: © Luisa Lauxen Dorr