Bolivian women savor the spotlight

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Bolivian women savor the spotlight

Bowler hats, billowing skirts and scarves in vibrant hues: Andean couture hit the runway in Bolivia’s capital of La Paz this week with a fashion show of local styles from this majority-indigenous country high in the Andes.

“We’ve come to showcase our identity,” said 25-year-old model Edith Sillerico.

The show in the exclusive neighborhood of Calacoto marked the anniversary of 1809 revolts against Spanish colonialism and drew keen interest from the city’s diplomatic corps.

Bolivia is the only nation in South America with a mostly indigenous population; ethnic Aymara are the biggest group among its native peoples whose traditional rural life largely involves potato and quinoa farming and raising llamas or guinea pigs.

Women tend to lead traditional lives, but there is something new in the air with their celebration of self.

Celebrating their attractiveness is especially important in a country where a white minority held sway for centuries and in many ways imposed European beauty standards, looking down on indigenous culture.

The models, all Aymara women, smiled flirtatiously as they strutted under bright lights, at times twirling oversized scarves with flowing fringes to reveal flower patterns in bold stitching and bright colors.

One, sporting a copper bowler hat over her long dark braid, lifted her skirt to reveal a lacy black petticoat.

The creations, which also included gold and silver rings, brooches, earrings and bracelets, were made by local artisans and designers.

Before facing the glare of the bright lights, the models twisted their long hair into braids, meticulously applied makeup and painted their nails.

“We’re nervous,” admitted 18-year-old Maribel Mamani, who is in her last year of school.

But once on the catwalk, all the preparation paid off. The bursts of applause said it all. AFP
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