Traditional Bolivian clothing is something I find very beautiful while we traveled to Bolivia. People in Bolivia are very traditional, they are very authentic and when I saw their attire I said to myself: “I want to try it.” The Andean women of indigenous descent are more traditional than in other South American countries and most of the women still wear their unique fashion: A skirt called pollera, a poncho and the classic bowler hat which looks really classy. The pollera skirt is a symbol of pride for indigenous people and part of their culture.
OUR CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
Since I fell in love with traditional Bolivian clothing I was determined to find some local lady who can lend it to me. We also wanted to show the locals that we really like their culture and want to get to know it better. How else to break down walls of distrust and suspicions?
Bolivian people are not the friendliest people we have met during our travels in South America. We were actually shocked how rude and cold they are, especially in La Paz and on the way to Lake Titicaca. But I didn’t want to draw the picture on all people.
However, this has to do with tourism and cultural differences. People in Bolivia are not familiar with tourism and with people from different countries. If you also know a little bit about history you surely know that South America was brutally colonized by Europeans (mostly Spanish).
A QUICK HISTORY
The indigenous people were nothing but cheap labor and there to be exploited. Until today the indigenous inhabitants suffer from discrimination and political/economical underrepresentation. Whereas, the elite is predominantly white. I totally understand why most Bolivians (who are indigenous) dislike or at least are suspicious of (white) foreigners.
However, we were nicely surprised that most people on Isla del Sol are warmer, they will greet you and smile at you and really want to talk to you and get to know you.
We wrote an article on Isla del Sol, so have a look.
You might like to read: Explore authentic Isla del Sol in Bolivia.
Planning to visit to Salar De Uyuni? Make sure to read our full guide on the salt flats in Bolivia.
We asked our host lady if she knows someone where we could lend traditional Bolivian clothing.
She sent us to her neighbors. We prepared our speech in Spanish and left. Of course, no one was there. We tried and knocked several times but no answer. We didn’t give up. Eventually late afternoon we finally found the neighbors. First, we went there on our own. Both reacted reserved and suspicious. I would say even cold. I guess they didn’t understand us because they said they didn’t have any dress.
We still didn’t give up. We asked the lady from the hotel to go there with us and transmit the message. Some people in Bolivia don’t really speak Spanish but their native tongue called Amara (in other areas Quechua). The same holds true for other parts of South America.
Now, with the right language both of them were delighted by our plan to borrow traditional Bolivian clothing. Finally, with the help of our hotel lady, I got my traditional Bolivian clothing and I could take pictures and just walk around the island.
TIP: It doesn’t matter where you are in Bolivia, just ask around. I am sure you will find your perfect Bolivian dress.
BECOMING A BOLIVIAN FOR 1 DAY
The lady was helping me to get dressed as the skirt is usually bigger and I had no idea how to fix it. She was so happy and excited for us that we wanted to take photos in their traditional costumes.
TRADITIONAL BOLIVIAN CLOTHING
I have to say, that the skirt is pretty heavy. The name of the skirt is pollera and it has many layers to make sure that you stay warm. You only have a poncho also called manta so women need to wear a warm alpaca sweater to stay warm too. Pollera used to be a simple Spanish dress that colonialists forced them to wear once they came to Bolivia. For the final look, you need a bowler hat which comes from the 19th century.
I got ready and went straight to the “Mirador” to take photos 🙂
Walking up the hill was a very funny experience. Imagine carrying a Christmas tree through a city center in summer. I have never done it but I guess people would look surprised and laugh.
Well that describes it quite accurately. People smiled and waved at us. They were telling us that I look pretty and that now only my hair should be braided to “finalize” the look. I have short hair, so I didn’t even try. That was such a nice experience and we felt like they appreciate it, too. We felt like we tore down a little bit of the cultural barrier.
I absolutely loved it. To wear classical traditional Bolivian clothing was a truly amazing experience. There is definitely something about wearing traditional clothing and costumes of a particular country. Maybe for some of you, it might be a bit silly but it also helps me to understand the culture better and get closer to the locals. This is why I love traveling. If you allow yourself you will stop being a foreigner and start to belong (at least for a day).
WOULD YOU ALSO TRY IT ON? LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS!
PIN IT ON PINTEREST!
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