By Lorena Burgos.
This month we want to highlight the story of a Bolivian woman who, without stopping doing what she loves and being herself, has broken schemes and has worked very hard to achieve her life goals. Today we want you to meet Ana Lia Gonzales Magueño - also known as Lita, a woman who was born and grew up in the city of El Alto - Bolivia, located at 4060 meters above sea level and very close to the highest mountains in the region. Today, Lita's work and passion are visible in Bolivia and internationally, thus, she has taught us that everything is possible in the minds of girls and women who want to reach the top.
"The mountain has changed our lives for the better."
Since she was a child, Lita always dreamt of being like her father, who is a professional mountain guide in the Andes. She wanted to climb mountains but at first she did not understand very well how she would achieve it. She thought that reaching the top of a mountain was easy, but she did not imagine the cost of the equipment needed to climb, nor what kind of physical preparation that professional mountain climbers should have. Lita started taking long walks on trails outside the city, but climbing a mountain was really something much bigger.
"I imagined that reaching the top was close, I never imagined that I needed so much equipment and so much physical effort."
It was not until December 2015 that she began to climb as part of the first team made up of Bolivian climbing Cholitas - Cholitas escaladoras - along with her mother Dora who became her model of perseverance and companion of many climbing adventures, and after several national expeditions, Lita climbed to the top of the Sajama mountain, the highest in Bolivia, and then to the top of Aconcagua, the highest mountain in America. This is how she was also able to get to know Poland, where she has had the joy of knowing and climbing its mountains.
Lita is a teacher at an elementary school in the city of El Alto - Bolivia, where she teaches in the mornings, and in the afternoons she works at her tourism agency because she also has a degree in Tourism Administration. The proximity of the city of El Alto to the Andes mountain range has greatly influenced her decision to climb mountains. El Alto is one of the highest cities in the world, facilitating the visit of people from around the globe in search of high mountain adventures, a passion that Lita and her entire family share, since her father, mother, brothers and nephews are expert climbers. She says that the mountain keeps them together, that they all play a role when it comes to climbing.
"My city is very close to the Cordillera Real mountains, this is what makes it special because you can always see the north, a chain of mountains and when it snows it turns white, and it's beautiful have that view. From my house you can see the mountains, the Huayna Potosi, the Chacaltaya, the Illimani and the Mururata."
Lita says that she has decided to climb mountains because it was a dream she had since she was a child, and reaching her first peak taught her to value life, to stand against injustice and against the negatives that many women experience in their lives. She thinks that the mountain is like a very wise grandfather, known in this part of the world as Achachila, which in the Aymara language means grandfather or guardian. She also says that the most difficult thing, like almost everything in life, is to start, but the joy of reaching out the top is incomparable, which is one of the most beautiful and freedom sensations that a person can feel.
"I like to get as far as I can and from there observe the sky."
The visibility that the Climbing Cholitas have gathered is due in part of the particularity of their climbing outfits. They climb wearing the original clothing of Aymara women, a long and heavy skirt called pollera. The most remarkable thing about this story is that Aymara women used to be discriminated for wearing this skirt - the pollera, but this has started to change, because now, wearing the skirt is a source of pride and honor for all Aymara women, who started to occupy spaces that were previously denied for them.
"I have always dreamed since I was a child and the moment I have reached the top has taught me to value life, it is a gift that God gives you, it has overcome my fears."
Lita dreams of climbing Everest, and we see that dream coming true soon. We have witnessed her effort, courage and perseverance, so we hope to see her reaching the highest mountain in the world, because the word impossible has long since disappeared from her vocabulary, and from ours too thanks to women like her.
All photographies credited to Lita.
Climbing mountains has changed Lita's life for good, it has taught her not to be afraid and to dare to fight for what she wants. She has learnt that dreams have no gender, that both men and women can desire and decide for their lives what they consider to be best, and thus encourages all women, and especially girls, that there is no dream that is too crazy or too big that cannot be fulfilled. We share her words and wishes for all the women who work by our side for better life opportunities for themselves and their families.
"The message for girls is not to be afraid to pursue their dreams because they are going to discover how wonderful girls and women are, and that age or gender does not matter, and we can do everything."