The elegant clothing style of the La Paz “cholita,” the emblematic indigenous Aymara woman who is the cultural icon of La Paz, will be seen for the first time during Fashion Week in New York this September.
The famed New York fashion runway will feature the designs of Bolivia’s Eliana Paco Paredes, an Aymara designer who – with great pride – creates traditional “cholita” outfits for her models complete with the derby, the skirt, the blouse and blanket, as well as wearing their long hair in two braids.
“For me, it’s a dream come true because since we’ve been working this type of clothing has been gaining greater notice abroad, and the work we’re doing is very important,” Paco told MLM.
The invitation to participate in Fashion Week comes after the recognition Paco has achieved so far in her 11-year career, which also includes participating in Bolivia’s Fashion Week, held last month in the central city of Cochabamba.
A secretary by profession, Paco decided to follow in the steps of her mother, Cecilia, who has been in the clothing design business and selling skirts to “cholitas” for many years.
Now, she is 100 percent dedicated to the design and sale of her outfits to Aymara women in her store, Diseños Esmeralda, located in La Paz’s populous El Tejar district.
Considered to be the icon of La Paz, the “chola” in 2013 was declared an intangible cultural heritage of the city via a municipal law recognizing the Aymara woman as “the most comprehensive personification of the Indian-mestizo amalgam, which since colonial times has maintained indestructible components of identity and individuality.”
The city noted at the time that although the dress of the “cholitas” was something imposed by the Spanish colonial masters after the Indian revolt of 1781, over the years “it became a voluntary adoption,” although toward the end of the 20th century many Aymaras were opting for Western dress out of fear of discrimination when they came to the cities to live.
However, now that fear is gone and more and more “cholitas” are to be seen on the street, wearing their traditional dress with pride.
“We’re strengthening the identity of the La Paz ‘chola,'” says Paco.