The portrait was taken in an area of La Paz, Bolivia, called La Cumbre. It’s about 4,800 metres above sea level and one of the highest parts of the city. The woman in the photograph is a friend of mine called Sandra Patzy, who is with her daughter, Nathaly. The photo was taken in 2018 when the girl was two.
We went to explore the area and take some pictures. It was captivating to see mother and daughter dressed the same. As we walked along the paths to the summit, Nathaly was often afraid because of the strong winds. Sandra told her: “Don’t be scared, everything around you is there to take care of you”. Those words reassured me, since I suffer from vertigo.
To distract Nathaly, I proposed taking some photos of her and it is at that moment that something magical happened. Nathaly struck a pose that I had never seen a girl do. She stood firm and, taking her hat delicately in her hand, she turned around, very sure of her presence at that moment. When she looked straight into the lens I could really feel her essence.
The photograph is part of a series called Cholita tenías que ser, which explores my connection with the Chola – the name given to the Indigenous women of the Andean area of Bolivia, who wear blankets, high top hats, and long, voluminous skirts called polleras. They use these garments as a symbol of identity and resistance, turning them into a symbol of empowerment throughout the region.
As an indigenous Aymara woman, I wanted to search for my own identity and discover the essence of the Chola.