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Cholo, term used in Ecuador, Peru, small parts of northern Argentina, and especially Bolivia as a synonym for Mestizo, specifically a person of mixed Andean and European heritage, usually a white father and an Aymara or Quechua mother. The term can be derogatory, but also can express ethnic pride, or a term of endearment.

What mainly identifies cholos is their lifestyle as well as their occupational and educational status. They are fluent in Spanish and the Indian languages (Quechua, Aymara). Most are engaged in petty trade, small farming, and herding. Cholas dress colorfully in rich material, with several full petticoats, embroidered blouses, and hats that vary by locality (such as a stylish derby). A change in lifestyle, a university education, Western dress, and speaking Spanish nearly always move them into the Europeanized middle class. Sometimes the middle class uses the term cholo to characterize undignified behavior. Since the 1950s, when the social revolution gained power in Bolivia, and increasingly in the 1980s and 1990s, many cholos were elected to political office, including the vice presidency in 1993 and the presidency in 2006. Therefore the derogatory use of the term has become improper, and the ethnic pride of many cholos is noticeable. This change in attitude is also occurring in Ecuador and Peru, but to a lesser extent.

See alsoRace and Ethnicity .


Daniel Pérez Velasco, La mentalidad chola en Bolivia (1928).

José Varallanos, El cholo y el Perú (1962).

Anthony Vetrano, The Ecuadorian Indian and Cholo in the Novels of Jorge Icaza: Their Lot and Languages (1974).

Paulovich [Alfonso Prudencio Claure], Diccionario del cholo ilustrado (1978).

Hernán Barra, Indios y cholos (1992).

Additional Bibliography

Cadena, Marisol de la. Indigenous Mestizos: The Politics of Race and Culture in Cuzco, Peru, 1919–1991. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.

Peredo, Elizabeth. Recoveras de los Andes: Una aproximación a la identidad de la chola del mercado. La Paz: Fundación Solón, 2001.

Rivera Cusicanqui, Silvia, and Denise Y. Arnold. Ser mujer indígena, chola o birlocha en la Bolivia postcolonial de los años 90. La Paz: Ministerio de Desarrollo Humano, Secretaría Nacional de Asuntos Étnicos, de Género y Generacionales: Subsecretaría de Asuntos de Género, 1996.

Stephens, Thomas M. Dictionary of Latin American Racial and Ethnic Terminology. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1989.

                                       Charles W. Arnade