Bolivian Culture

Not without reason has President Evo Morales recently renamed the country The Plurinational State of Bolivia. Bolivia has one of the largest indigenous populations in South America, and a substantial mestizo (mixed race) proportion. Out of a total of 36 indigenous groups, the two largest are Aymara and Quechua (in the north-western highlands). Well-known minorities include the Afro-Bolivianos, whose popular Saya music mixes African percussion with Andean instruments.

In the cities Bolivian culture mixes with international trends, producing a modern vibrance fleshed out with ancient traditions, a nightlife that is a pulsing cocktail of the modern and indigenous. Both Peñas and Saya grottos are to be found dotted amongst the more conventional clubs of La Paz.

The folkloric custom in Bolivia is potent, and it is never felt more strongly than at its grand carnivals, celebrated at various auspicious times of year. Forget Rio, the carnival of Oruro is renowned across South America for its energy and the impressive showcase of traditional dances: from llama herders (Llamerada), and harvesters (Suri Sikuri) to devil worshippers (Diablada), dancing brawls (Tinku) and Slave drivers (Caporales), Oruro has it all. Not only is carnaval culturally rich, but Bolivians go carnival-crazy; it is difficult to venture out into the street without being either attacked by a water pistols offensive or a barrage of foam spray. That's if you avoid being thrown in the fountain. Have a look at our Photo gallery for a taste of the February 2010 Carnaval.

Cultural heritage:

Bolivia possesses 300 archeological sites and many more of high historical value. UNESCO has declared a many locations around the country world heritage sites, including:

Potosi (1987) Home to the Cerro Rico, a mountain purportedly filled with Silver, this mining town was a major source of Spain's silver plundering during the colonial era and at 4824m above sea level, claims to be the highest city in the world.

Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos (1990) A collection of sites in the department of Santa Cruz where the Jesuits set up camp to try and convert the indigenous peoples. Today characterised by its synchrony of European and indigenous culture.

Sucre (1991) The constitutional Capital of Bolvia, also known as the 'White city' for its beautifully preserved 18th and 19th century buildings, all painted white.

Tiwanaku (2000) Tenth-century ruins of a pre-Inca civilisation possibly dating back to 1600 BC. A huge site, much of which remains unexcavated. Let your imagination run wild.

Noel Kempff Mercado National Park (2000) Located on the border with Brazil, in the department of Santa Cruz, an unspoiled paradise.

Kallawaya culture. (2003) To be found in the mountainous environs of La Paz, these peoples are direct descendants of the pre-Inca Tiwanaku period.

The Carnival of Oruro has also been honoured with the title Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.