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Skateboarding has always possessed the ability to break down barriers and transcend boundaries between subcultures, traditions and beyond. It brings people together in a space in which where you come from, who you are and what you believe in doesn’t matter, as long as you don’t snake anyone at the park. It’s also an inherently subversive sport, one of the most policed and regulated, making it naturally politicized.
A collective that’s utilizing all these points and using skate as a form of disruption is the Bolivian group ImillaSkate. Meaning “young girl”, the nine members wear traditional dress to skate as a means of reclaiming and expressing pride in their indigenous identity.
As recently as 2008, Bolivia’s indigenous Aymara and Quechua women, known as ‘cholitas’, were socially ostracised and systematically marginalized. Recognizable by their wide skirts, braided hair and tall white hats adorned with ribbons, the cholitas were banned from using public transport and entering certain public spaces. Their career opportunities too, were severely limited due to this traditional clothing. Despite organizing and advocating for their civil rights since the 60s, their movement didn’t gain momentum until Evo Morales’ election as Bolivia’s first indigenous president in 2006.
Founded in 2019 by skateboarder Dani Santiváñez and her friends with a unique and hopeful story, ImillaSkate seeks to prove that not only does skateboarding exist in Cochabamba, but that women there love skating, that traditional clothing deserves to be seen on a global scale and that ancestral culture should be honored, not ostracised.
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