Bolivia Culture

By | March 22, 2021

Colonial Paintings

Colonial Paintings

Contemporary painting

Contemporary painting

Before the presidency of Evo Morales, the dominant culture in the country’s major cities was the so-called Western culture of Europeans and the bourgeoisie. However, a clear influence of Indian culture can also be found in art, literature, music and architecture of the colonial era, which has led to an independent style, the ” mestizo baroque”. Literature in particular has left behind many mestizo and indigenous works that the Enrich Bolivian culture. Notable writers are Adela Zamudio, Oscar Alfaro, Franz Tamayo, Alcides Arguedas and the indigenous writers Juan Wallparrimachi,Fausto Reynaga and his son Ramiro Reynaga.

Indigenous and non-indigenous culture

Since Evo Morales came to power, the indigenous population has increased significantly in self-confidence and self-esteem, especially the Aymara, who have developed a differentiated urban indigenous culture in the city of El Alto. Successful traders even form their own indigenous middle class. The Aymara are also very well organized.

Cultural heritage

As before, the treasures of the pre-Hispanic cultures that are in the Archaeological Museum, the Regional Museum of Tiwanaku, in Kokamuseum or textile Ethnographic Museum and the National Art Museum and the Ministry cultures can be seen, for Bolivia is very important.


As a country located in South America according to historyaah, Bolivia is also rich in folklore. There are typical instruments like the zampoña, quena or charango. The most important Bolivian cultural showpiece are the carnival dances and costumes, which can be found in their blaze of color and cultural significance in the Carnival of Oruro in the highlands, but also in Santa Cruz in the lowlands. The folk music is a mixture of traditional, indigenous melodies and western sounds. The most important music group are the Kjarkas; furthermore Savia Andina, Enriqueta Ulloa (Tarija) should be mentioned. Octavia is one of the most famous rock groups.

Art and contemporary art can be viewed in the virtual gallery, which also provides an overview of theater and literature.


A very special architectural development can be observed in the megacity of El Alto for several years. Spectacularly colorful buildings with their very own design language, which on the one hand are reminiscent of the buildings of the 1970’s modernity, but almost defy any classification. Characteristic is the mixed use with a shop area on the ground floor, a generously designed festival room in the middle and residential use in the upper area. The roof design is also very typical: on the flat roof of the mostly four-storey building, a residential building is set up in the style of the houses of the wealthy elite from the southern districts of the neighboring city of La Paz.

In September 2016, ZEIT magazine dedicated its own photo report to the architect Freddy Mamani Silvestre under the title ” Tollhäuser “.

The Bolivian film

The Bolivian cinema can now look back on more than a hundred years of history. At the beginning of the 20th century there was great enthusiasm for moving images worldwide, including in Bolivia. The pioneering days of Bolivian cinema began, initially with the documentary “ Ferrocarril Arica – La Paz” (The Arica Railway – La Paz, 2013) by Luis Castillo Gonzales. 1923 followed with “ La Profecía del Lago” (The Prophecy of the Lake), the first feature-length film, the significance of which is that this is the first case of censorship: the film is banned on the day of its premiere and not afterwards shown more. This is followed by Pedro Sambarino’s “ Corazón Aymara” (Aymara Heart) in 1924 and two years later “La Gloria de la Raza “(The glory of the breed) by Arturo Posnasky.

In the 1930’s, several important films about the Chaco War followed, as well as the film ” Wara Wara” (Stars) by José María Velasco Maydana, which is still considered one of the 12 best Bolivian films. From this early period of cinema, however, only a few have survived, sometimes only fragments or the scripts.

The National Revolution of 1952 marked the beginning of a new era in Bolivian cinema and a number of important productions such as “ Vuelve Sebastiana” (Sebastiana Returns, 1953) by Jorge Ruiz and Augusto Roca.

The Bolivian film has traditionally been a film of protest and accusation against the prevailing grievances. Probably the best-known Bolivian director is Jorge Sanjinés, who made the situation of the Indian population his subject in 1966 with his first film ” Ukamau “. In 1969 “ Yawar Mallku” (The Blood of the Condor) by Jorge Sanjinés is published, which addresses the issue of birth control and the sterilization of women in a small village by the North American Peace Corps; then the villagers organized themselves and the “gringos” were castrated out of revenge. His accusation of US imperialism was “Yawar Mallku ”to an emblematic film of Latin American cinema.

Another important film by Sanjinés, ” El Coraje del Pueblo” (Courage of the People) from 1971, reconstructs the massacre of the Bolivian miners committed by the dictator Barrientos. In 1995 he directed the film “The Song of the Birds”, which describes the difficulties faced by a film crew in recruiting villagers from the highlands as extras for a film by the Conquista. An important characteristic of most Sanjinés films is the fact that they predominantly speak Quechua or Aymara.

During the subsequent dictatorship of Banzer, “Chuquiago”, a social radiography of La Paz in turbulent times, was shown in 1975. This film by Antonio Eguino is still one of the 12 best films in Bolivian cinema.

With the return to democracy in 1982, a new era also opened up for the cinema. A large number of films are being made, and for the first time also from outside the government seat of La Paz. The best films of the democratic phase are – in chronological order – the following:

1982 “ Mi socio ” (My buddy) by Paolo Agazzi

1989 “ La Nación Clandestina ” (The Hidden Nation)

1995 “ Cuestión de Fé” (A Question of Faith) by Marcos Loayza

2003 Dependencia Sexual (Sexual Addiction) by Rodrigo Bellot

2005 “ Lo más Bonito y mis Mejores Años” (The best and my best years) by Martín Boulocq

2009 “ Zona Sur ” (South Zone) by Juan Carlos Valdivia

2015 “ Carga Sellada” (Sealed Freight) by Julia Vargas-Weise