Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Costa Rican Roller Derby

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Ready to roll: Costa Rica’s Panties Dinamita taking to the streets of San José. (Courtesy of Panties Dinamita)

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Roller derby, popular in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s, is catching fire in Costa Rica. The Roller Derby Costa Rica league, founded just one year ago, already has three teams—two in San José and one in the northern city of Heredia. And they’re likely to expand. A recent Facebook flier promoting an upcoming match between San José’s most popular team, Panties Dinamita, against crosstown rivals Gatas Callejeras cheekily advertises for new players who are “responsible women with attitude.”

Panties captain and San José native Josselin Leon Chávez founded the league after watching the sport on Internet video. Many of the players who have signed up are married with kids, “but they can get fierce when they put their pads on and step on the field,” says Chávez.

In the sport, two teams of five women compete, with each player decked out with pads and helmet. For now, the league takes over plazas and basketball courts to practice and compete. But with growing popularity they are looking for more permanent venues.

According to Chávez, the women of Roller Derby are making a strong statement about who can play contact sports in Costa Rica. And while there is often skepticism on the part of male onlookers, she insists that “there is plenty of participation by men as coaches, trainers and referees.”

Occasionally, Panties, Gatas and Roller Derby Heredia put their rivalries aside to train together and even compete abroad. Now they’re organizing a series of friendly matches this summer with the three-year-old Colombian league. Could a hemispheric roller derby league be far behind?


Matthew Aho is a consultant in the corporate practice group at Akerman LLP.

Tags: Costa Rica, Panorama, Roller derby, Sports
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