|Bolivia history reflects the influence of the richest cultural treasures of the Inca civilization. With more than half of the population still living according to traditional ways, modern Bolivian culture is heavily influenced by the centuries old traditions handed down since the time of the Incan empire.
Tiahunico, Lake Titicaca, and the Island of the Sun are some of the most revered sites in all the Incan Empire. Tiahuanico, although long in ruin when the Inca discovered it, nonetheless achieved great spiritual significance in the life of the Inca. The elaborately carved megalithic figures and impeccable stonework at this site will leave you puzzling at its origins, seeing them for yourself will allow you to understand how these ancient monuments have come to be so revered and continue to draw reverent spectators to this very day.
Although they greatly outnumbered the Spanish conquistadors, the native Incan population stood no chance against the horses, armor, guns, and strange diseases that the Spaniards bought with them to the New World. The Inca were a very trusting and communal society, and bargaining with the Spaniards only resulted in the cruel and brutal murder of the ruler, Sapa Inca and the complete defacing of the most revered temples that even an ordinary Inca was not worthy of entering without days of purification and bare feet.
Bolivian culture, now a mix of Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, is an amalgam of the cultures that have risen and fallen since ancient times. The Indians have a distinct appearance, they are often of a short, stocky build, and many wear brilliant weavings and practice traditional farming methods, eking out a meager existence in the parched highlands of the Altiplano. Bolivians of Spanish, or mestizo (mixed) descent are easily recognized by their fair features and taller stature.
Musical traditions within Bolivia are distinctly regional: strains of Andean music from the desolate Altiplano are suitably haunting and mournful, while those of warmer Tarija, with its compliment of bizarre musical instruments, take on more ebullient tones. Dances such as the cueca, auqui-auqui and tinku hold a reverent place in popular culture. Other forms of folk expression include spinning and weaving, which display regional differences but have changed little over the last 3000 years.
Bolivia's food is dominated by meat dishes, accompanied by rice, potatoes and shredded lettuce. Sometimes llajhua (a hot sauce made from tomatoes and pepper pods) will be used to add spice and flavor to a dish. Bolivian beer, wine and chicha (industrial-strength maize liquor) are all good but be warned: if invited to drink with locals, be prepared as the alcohol is strong and Bolivian drinking habits lusty.
Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion in Bolivia, and is supported by the state, although citizens may practice the religion of their choice.1 Roman Catholic Church officials receive monthly salaries from the government. The government appointed the Catholic church as the organizer of all public religious activities. There are about 400 religious groups in Bolivia. Eighty-five percent of the population practices Roman Catholicism, 11% are Evangelical Christians, and 4% belong to other faiths.2 Protestants are most active religious minority.
Spanish is the official language, yet only 60 to 70% of the people actually speak it, and then often only as a second language. The remainder speak Quechua, the language of the Inca, or Aymará, the pre-Inca language of the Altiplano.
95% of Bolivia's population professes to be Roman Catholic, The hybrid Christian/folk religion is an interesting conglomeration of doctrines, rites and superstitions.