The Populist Chola: Cultural Mediation and the Political Imagination in Quillacollo, Bolivia



This argument situates the "image" of the popular woman in the emerging electoral context of Quillacollo, a Bolivian provincial capital. Even as "cholas" remain largely shut out from regional political power, their ubiquitous image culturally mediates political access to the popular sector for men. Hence authorities initiate token economic exchanges with cholas. both to participate intimately in the popular cultural milieu, and to solidify their claims to personal roots in this world. This argument examines the interrelated contexts of national structural adjustment, regional development, the domestic economy, agricultural fiestas, and sexual conduct, as these are "performed" within a regional folkloric calendar, that turn on the currency of the chola as a political "root metaphor." In turn, the role of the chola's image suggests limitations upon her status as historical actor.