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Bolivia Culture & Customs
The Bolivia culture has been shaped by the relationship between Spanish and indigenous cultures. The ethnic diversity of Bolivia allowed diverse traditions and customs to coexist.
When most people think of Bolivia culture they think of the indigenous people that live in the high Andes or the mighty culture of the Inca empire that has long since disappeared.
The Bolivian culture in the Andes is rich with superstition, mystical beliefs and bizarre rituals, many of which date back to the pre-inca times.
In the Andes you can see some of the cultures and customs that existed in Bolivia during the Inca era, which is particular evident in the indigenous population of the Altiplano region in Western Bolivia.
Even today you can find many indigenous rituals and beliefs that have existed during the Incas, which can be seen at the Witches Market in La Paz, Bolivia. Bolivia's culture of folklore is also still vibrant today and can be seen in the Carnival in Oruro.
But, not all of Bolivia has the same culture or customs. Like the geography and its landscape, Bolivia culture is diverse, depending on which region you are at in Bolivia. For example in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia such as in Santa Cruz, the culture and customs are very different to the Andes region.
In the southern part of Bolivia such as in Tarija, the cultures and customs are related to that of Argentina, being that it is in close proximity to Argentina.
In many of the larger cities of Bolivia many of the Spanish-speaking people follow Western customs, where they dress in western-style clothes and listen to modern music.
Also, festivals and parties are a big part of the Bolivian culture. No matter where you are at in Bolivia festivals or parties are part of the way of life. Many of the festivals and parties in Bolivia involve lots of drinking and dancing.
Although you can find rude and inconsiderate people no matter where you go in the world (even in Bolivia), you'll find that the majority of Bolivians are polite and courteous.
A smile, a greeting and a few friendly words in Spanish will go along way. In Bolivia it is normal to greet everyone you talk to with a formal "buenos dias" (good morning) or "buenas tardes" (good afternoon) before starting a conversation. In smaller towns and villages, you'll even find strangers exchange greetings as they pass on the street.
In Bolivia it is best to call a person señor or señora, especially if they are older than you. Many Bolivians are generous and might take offence if you don't accept what they have offered you, particularly when it comes to food or drinks.
The Ethnic composition of Bolivia is 55% predominantly indigenous, such as Quechua and Aymara, the two ethnic groups descended from the Inca Empire. The rest is 30% mestizo (mixed), 12% European descendant and 3% other
Bolivian culture has been heavily influenced by the Quechua and the Aymara. Bolivia has a rich folklore and its regional folk music is distinctive and varied. The "devil dances" at the annual carnival of Oruro are one of the great folkloric events in South America.
Many of the rituals originated as a means to give thanks to Pachamama, the mother earth, for the quality of the harvest, the fertility of livestock and the protection of the community.
There are also many rituals that range from fortune telling with coca leaves to a rural ceremony in a remote village that involves the sacrifice of a llama.
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