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Bandera de Bolivia (Estado).svg
Total population
c. 13.2 million
Diaspora 1.4 million
Regions with significant populations
 Bolivia 11 million
 United States99,296[5]
Primarily Spanish
Quechua, Aymara, Guarani and other languages of Bolivia
Predominantly Roman Catholic[7]
(syncretism with traditional beliefs is widely practiced)
Protestant and Mormon minorities[8]

Bolivians (Spanish: Bolivianos) are people identified with the country of Bolivia. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Bolivians, several (or all) of these connections exist and are collectively the source of their being Bolivian.

Bolivia is, as its neighboring countries, a multiethnic and multilingual society, home to people of various ethnic, religious, and national origins, with the majority of the population made up of Old World immigrants and their descendants. As a result, Bolivians do not equate their nationality with ethnicity, but with citizenship and allegiance to Bolivia. Aside from the indigenous populations, Bolivians trace their ancestry to the Old World, primarily Europe and Africa, ever since the Spanish conquest of South America and founding of first Spanish settlements in the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata.

Modern Bolivian population, estimated at 11 million is formally broken down into Amerindians (primarily Quechua and Aymara, Guaraní peoples), Mestizos, Europeans and Afro-Bolivians. The group's sole common language is Spanish (Bolivian Spanish), although the Guarani, Aymara and Quechua languages are also widely spoken in their communities and to some degree by others, and all three, as well as 34 other indigenous languages, are official languages of the country. The mutual influence and interaction of cultures of Bolivia have resulted in modern Bolivian society becoming one of prime examples of a melting pot according to some anthropologists.

Ethnic groups[edit]

Ethnic composition
Indigenous-Native peoples self-identification ¹
Indigenous self-identification 60 %
None self-identification 40 %
Ethnic self-identification ²
Mestizo 68 %
Indigenous 21 %
White Bolivian 4 %
Cholo 2 %
Afro-Bolivian 1 %
Other 1 %
n/a 3 %
1 = National Census of Population and Living 2001, National Statistics Institute of Bolivia (INE).
2 = [10]

The ethnic composition of Bolivia includes a great diversity of cultures. Most of the indigenous peoples have assimilated a mestizo culture, diversifying and expanding their indigenous heritage; as such, many people of exclusively Amerindian ancestry may simply identify as "Mestizo". Consequently, there is in Bolivia a mix of cultures, which joins together Hispanic and Amerindian cultures.

Mestizo Bolivians[edit]

Mestizos are people of mixed European and indigenous ancestry. They are distributed throughout the entire country and compose about 68% of the Bolivian population.[11] Most people assume their mestizo identity while at the same time identifying themselves with one or more Indigenous cultures. Genetic research indicates that the ancestry of Bolivian mestizos is predominantly indigenous.[12][13][14]

Indigenous Bolivians[edit]

Indigenous, also called "originarios" ("native" or "original") and, less frequently, Amerindians. This ethnic group is composed by the descendants of the Pre-Hispanic cultures. They can be Andean, as the Aymaras and Quechuas (which formed the ancient Inca Empire), which concentrate in the western departments of La Paz, Potosí, Oruro, Cochabamba and Chuquisaca. There also is an important oriental ethnic population, composed by the Chiquitano, Guaraní and Moxos, among others, and that inhabit the departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Tarija and Pando. According to the most recent census,the indigenous people compose 20% of the Bolivian population, but in reality, this number is closer to between 62-70%.[15]

White or European Bolivians[edit]

White Bolivians composed 12.72% or 231,088 of the total population in the 1900 census, the last official census that collected data of racial origin.[16] Modern estimates have estimated that they're now only 5% of the population[17] and according to a 2014 survey by Ipsos, 3% of people questioned said they were white.[18] Most people who identify as white are descendants of criollos and European immigrants, coming mostly from Spain, Croatia, Germany and Italy.[17] They are usually concentrated in the largest cities — La Paz, Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Cochabamba — and in some minor cities like Tarija. In the Santa Cruz Department there is an important colony (70.000 inhabitants) of German-speaking Mennonites.[19]


Afro-Bolivians are descendants of African slaves, who arrived in the times of the Spanish Empire. They inhabit the department of La Paz and in the provinces of Nor Yungas and Sud Yungas. 23,330 people self-identified as Afro-Bolivian in the 2012 census.[20]


Indigenous peoples[edit]

The Indigenous peoples of Bolivia are divided into two ethnic groups: the Andeans, who are in the Andean Altiplano and the valley region, and the ethnic culture of the oriental Llanos region, who inhabit the warm regions of eastern Bolivia (Gran Chaco).

  • Andean ethnicities
    • Aymaras. They live on the high plateau of the departments of La Paz, Oruro and Potosí, as well as some small regions near the tropical flatlands.
    • Quechuas. They inhabit mostly the valleys on Cochabamba and Chuquisaca. They also inhabit some mountain regions in Potosí and Oruro. They divide themselves into quechua nations, as the Tarabucos, Ucumaris, Chalchas, Chaquies, Yralipes, Tirinas, among others.
  • Ethnicities of the Oriental Llanos
    • Guaraníes. Formed by Guarayos, Pausernas, Sirionos, Chiriguanos, Wichí, Chulipis, Tapietes [es], Tobas and Yuquis.
    • Tacanas: Formed by Tacanas, Lecos, Ese Ejas, Araonas, Reyesanos and Maropas.
    • Panos: Formed by Chacobos, Caripunas, Sinabos, Capuibos and Guacanaguas.
    • Aruacos: Formed by Apolistas, Baures, Moxos, Chané, Movimas, Cayabayas, Carabecas, Paiconecas or Paucanacas.
    • Chapacuras: Formed by Itenez or More, Chapacuras, Sansinonianos, Canichanas, Itonamas, Yuracares, Guatoses and Chiquitos.
    • Botocudos: Formed by Bororos y Otuquis.
    • Zamucos: Formed by Ayoreos.
Main Indigenous and Afro-Bolivian peoples from Bolivia
Group Population % Group Population %
1 Quechua 1,837,105 18.26% 6 Guarayo 23,910 0.24%
2 Aymara 1,598,807 15.89% 7 Afro-Bolivian 23,330 0.23%
3 Chiquitano 145,653 1.45% 8 Movima 18,879 0.19%
4 Guaraní 96,842 0.96% 9 Tacana 18,535 0.18%
5 Mojeño 42,093 0.42% 10 Tsimane Chimán 16,958 0.17%
Source: 2012 Census of Bolivia[20]


Aymara woman praying
Basílica Menor de San Lorenzo, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia

The Roman Catholic church has a dominant religious presence in Bolivia.[8] While a vast majority of Bolivians are Catholic Christians,[23] a much smaller portion of the population participates actively. In the decades following the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), the Church tried to make religion a more active force in social life.

A 2008 survey for Americas Barometer, with 3,003 respondents and an error (+/- 1,8%)[24] returned these results:

Religion Percentage Notes
Catholic 81.6%
Evangelical 10.3% Pentecostal, Non-Catholic Charismatic
No religion 3.3% Secular, Atheist
Other Protestant 2.6% Historic Protestant: Adventist, Baptist, Calvinist, Salvation Army, Lutheran, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian
Mormon and Jehova's Witness 1.7%
Non-Christian 0.4% Baháʼí Faith, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu
Traditional religions 0.1% Native religions

Other reviews of the population vary from these specific results.[25]


Traditional folk dress during a festival in Bolivia.

Some cultural development of what is now Bolivia is divided into three distinct periods: pre-Columbian, colonial, and republican. Important archaeological ruins, gold and silver ornaments, stone monuments, ceramics, and weavings remain from several important pre-Columbian cultures. Major ruins include Tiwanaku, Samaipata, Inkallaqta and Iskanwaya. The country abounds in other sites that are difficult to reach and hardly explored by archaeologists.

The Spanish brought their own tradition of religious art which, in the hands of local indigenous and mestizo builders and artisans, developed into a rich and distinctive style of architecture, literature, and sculpture known as "Mestizo Baroque." The colonial period produced the paintings of Perez de Holguin, Flores, Bitti, and others, and also the works of skilled but unknown stonecutters, woodcarvers, goldsmiths, and silversmiths. An important body of native baroque religious music of the colonial period was recovered in recent years and has been performed internationally to wide acclaim since 1994. Bolivian artists of stature in the 20th century include, among others, Guzman de Rojas, Arturo Borda, María Luisa Pacheco, Master William Vega, Alfredo Da Silva, and Marina Núñez del Prado.


Many dances and songs contain elements from both the native and European cultures. Caporales seems to be the most popular Bolivian dance of present times — in a few decades it has developed into an enormously popular dance,[26] not only in the Highlands where it originated, but also in the Lowlands and in Bolivian communities outside the country. In the Highlands, other traditional and still very popular dances are:

In the Lowlands, there are:

  • Macheteros
  • Taquirari
  • Chovena chiquitana
  • Brincao
  • Carnavalito"
  • El Sarao"
  • Los moperas
  • La Paica
  • Danzas del Sol y de la Luna
  • Danza de la Saraza
  • Danzas de los pescadores
  • Danzas del cazador amazónico
  • Danza Rosita Pochi
  • Arete guazú
  • Toritos
  • Danzas Vallegrandinas de Santa Cruz
  • Cueca Cruceña


It is fashionable among Bolivian Andean women of indigenous descent to wear a ski. It was originally a Spanish peasant skirt that the colonial authorities forced indigenous women to wear. Now it is a symbol of pride in being indigenous and is considered a status symbol.

Another fashion is the bowler hat, which was adopted from the British. The position of the hat can indicate a woman's marital status and aspirations.


Bolivian cuisine stems mainly from the combination of Spanish cuisine with traditional indigenous Bolivian ingredients, with later influences from Argentines, Germans, Italians, Basques, Croats, Russians, and Poles, due to the arrival of immigrants from those countries.[27]

The traditional staples of Bolivian cuisine are corn and potatoes. These ingredients have been combined with a number of staples brought by the Spanish, such as rice, wheat, and meat, such as beef, pork, and chicken

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cónsul Boliviano con los días contados por Raúl Kollman, Página 12, 9 de abril de 2006.
  2. ^ "O Brasil tem pouco imigrante". Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  3. ^ Europapress (22 August 2013). "Nueve de cada diez bolivianos en España ya están en situación regular" (in Spanish). Retrieved 4 February 2014.
  4. ^ "Extranjeros en Chile superan el millón 110 mil y el 72% se concentra en dos regiones: Antofagasta y Metropolitana" (in Spanish). El Mercurio. 2018-04-09.
  5. ^ US Census Bureau 2012 American Community Survey B03001 1-Year Estimates HISPANIC OR LATINO ORIGIN BY SPECIFIC ORIGIN retrieved September 20, 2013
  6. ^ "BOLIVIA Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática".
  7. ^ "Las religiones en tiempos del Papa Francisco" (in Spanish). Latinobarómetro. April 2014. pp. 6, 31. Archived from the original (pdf) on 10 May 2015. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  8. ^ a b Religion affiliation in Bolivia as of 2018. Based on Latinobarómetro. Survey period: June 15 to August 2, 2018, 1,200 respondents.
  9. ^ INE (2001). "Autoidentificación con Pueblos Originarios o Indígenas de la Población de 15 años o más de edad- UBICACIÓN, ÁREA GEOGRÁFICA, SEXO Y EDAD". Retrieved 7 October 2009.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Fundación Boliviana para la Democracia Multipartidaria (FBDM) y Fondo para la Democracia de Naciones Unidas (Undef) (13 March 2009). "Encuesta Nacional Sobre Valores y Actitudes Frente a la Conflictividad en Bolivia" (PDF). Retrieved 7 October 2009.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "The World Factbook: Bolivia". CIA. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  12. ^ Ancestry analysis reveals a predominant Native American component with moderate European admixture in Bolivians
  13. ^ Average continental ancestry of Bolivians analyzed using a panel of 46 AIMs
  14. ^ The Genetic Legacy of the Pre-Colonial Period in Contemporary Bolivians
  15. ^ "Where Have All the Indigenous Gone? Bolivia Sees 20 Percent Drop".
  16. ^ Censo National De La Poblacion de la Republica Archived 2016-10-15 at the Wayback Machine 1900 Census of Bolivia. "Segunda parte" - (Page: 25 - 32)
  17. ^ a b Bolivian people
  18. ^ "El 52% de la población se identifica como mestiza". El Día [es] (in Spanish). 27 January 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2020.
  19. ^ Bolivian Reforms Raise Anxiety on Mennonite Frontier. The New York Times. 21 December 2006.
  20. ^ a b "Censo de Población y Vivienda 2012 Bolivia Características de la Población". Instituto Nacional de Estadística, República de Bolivia. p. 29.
  21. ^ ボリビア多民族国基礎データ
  22. ^ "Geographical Distribution of the Lebanese Diaspora". The Identity Chef.
  23. ^ "Religion in Latin America, Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region". Pew Research Center. 13 November 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  24. ^ Americas Barometer Survey 2008 - page 11 Archived June 24, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "Bolivia". National Profiles > > Regions > Central America >. Association of Religion Data Archives. 2010. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
  26. ^ "Noticias EL DIARIO - Primera página". Retrieved 2017-10-14.
  27. ^ Roufs, Timothy G.; Roufs, Kathleen Smyth. Sweet Treats Around the World. p. 44.