Skateboarding girls in Bolivia are challenging gender norms and stereotypes. Skateboarding is predominantly a male sport around the world. However, girls in Bolivia are trying to change that by learning to skateboard. They are not only learning how to skateboard but they are also doing it in traditional clothes.
The traditional clothes of Bolivia include bright colored shirts, hats and long colored skirts. Some might find it difficult to skateboard in a skirt but these girls embrace it. These traditional clothes are a part of their culture.
This allows the girls to bring their culture into the world of skateboarding while also helping them connect to their culture. These colorful skirts are called “pollera.” They have learned from their grandmothers to wear these skirts with pride and they do so while skateboarding.
ImillaSkate is a female collective that three friends created in 2018. This collective has empowered women in one of the largest cities in Bolivia, Cochabamba. Dani Santivanez is one of the founders of ImillaSkate. They formed the female collective as a way to reclaim their roots and as a “cry for inclusion.”
“Imilla means “young girl” in Aymara and Quechua, two of the most widely spoken languages in Bolivia,” according to The Guardian. ImillaSkate also uses hairstyle as a part of cultural identity for skateboarding girls in Bolivia.
While brushing each other’s hair, the girls form a connection to each other. “The Imillias” the collective’s nickname compete in local competitions while empowering women and creating an acceptance of diversity.
Poverty in Bolivia
Bolivia has some of the highest poverty rates in South America and this is largely due to the lack of basic necessities. These basic necessities include a lack of food and clean water. This has greatly affected the children of Bolivia including young girls.
In Bolivia, one in three children suffers from stunted growth which prevents them from growing. This is due to the lack of healthcare systems and malnutrition. Skateboarding has become an outlet for many young girls as well as a way to empower them.
According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bolivia has the highest proportion of Indigenous people in the region. This means that more than half of Bolivia’s population is Indigenous. However, these skateboarding girls are not only looking for a way to connect to their roots but also a way to empower women.
Skateboarding emerged in Bolivia over two decades ago, according to National Geographic. Dani Santivanez, one of the founders of ImillaSkate, shares a similar experience with many young girls in Bolivia. As a young girl, she learned how to skateboard and made it her hobby. However, as she grew older, her mother started complaining about her bruises which led her to quit skateboarding.
After college, she rediscovered her passion and started skateboarding again. This led to the discovery that many other girls also had a passion for skateboarding. It also brought to attention that while boys in Bolivia often get together to skateboard, girls rarely do. The question of why arose and this led to the creation of Imillskate which helps empower young girls to continue skateboarding. Many of the young girls in the group have stated they never imagined girls skateboarding.
ImillaSkate wants young girls to feel empowered to skate and it is no longer rare to see girls skateboarding. ImillaSkate hopes to see more skateboarding girls in Bolivia.
– Sierrah Martin