Bolivia, being in the South of America, is located in the Andes mountains and is populated by the Native Americans. It is characterized uniquely by a mix of Spanish cultural elements and their ancestral traditions. The Spanish-speaking population being the most “westernized” is famous for its mix of cultural roots and traditions; this was implanted from the colonial and republican periods of its history. The pre-Columbian era, before the colonization of the country’s cultural environment, was characterized by the presence of stone monuments, skillfully made ceramics, gold and silver ornamentation, and weaving. Major ruins dated to this era include the ruins of Samaipata, Iskanwaya, Tiwanaku, and Incallajita.
The Spanish arrival, in the pre-Columbian era, heralded the start of what came to be a unique mix of the traditional culture and the Spanish tradition of religious art. The resultant mix, after interactions with the local “mestizo” artisans and builders, and the indigenous population resulted in the development of a distinctive and rich style of literature, sculptural craft “Mestizo Baroque” and architecture. Skillfully crafted artworks by legendary Flores, Bitti, and Perez de Holguin, combining stones, gold, silver, and wood together with paintings, can trace their roots to the colonial period. Artists of stature in the twentieth century include Maria Luisa Pacheco, Marina Nunez Del Prado, and Alfredo Da Silva (Galván, 2011).
Pagan rites associated with the pre-Colombian era, are still common, especially during the Native religious festivals. Clothing, used during the festivals, is reminiscent of the pre-Colombian Indians dressing style mixed with the 16th century Spanish attires. The annual carnival of Oruro is characterized by “devil dances” with other rites being displayed in the “Tinku” ceremony and the fertility rites at Macha on the third of May annually, the “carnival” at Trabuco, and the indigenous “Anata Andina”. Many dances and songs, containing elements from both the European (Spanish) and Native cultures, exist with “Caporales” being the most popular of Bolivian dance, in the contemporary era. It has developed, over a few decades, into an enormously popular dance, not only in its region of origin, the Highlands, but also in the Lowlands and the emigrant Bolivian communities (Murphy, Perkins, & Hannay, 2002).
Distinctive attires include the “Pollera”, a fashionable skirt among the indigenous Bolivian Andean women. Originally a Spanish attire of the peasant class, it was forced upon the indigenous women by the colonial authorities, but now it is considered to be a symbol of status and indigenous pride. The “bowler hat”, an adoption from the British, is used symbolically to indicate a woman’s aspirations and marital status; depending on the position of the hat (Murphy, Perkins, & Hannay, 2002).
Bolivian music is characterized by its varied and distinctive folk music that is played during dances and festival, with some containing strong Spanish influences. Common musical instruments are the “sicu”, “tarka”, “matraca”, copper bells, skin drums and flutes. The cuisine is mainly composed of a combination of traditional native Bolivian ingredients with Spanish ones, with latter influences traceable to the Croats, Russians, Poles, Italians and Germans. This is attributed to the arrival of immigrants from the aforementioned countries. Beans, potatoes and corn are the three traditional staples of Bolivian cuisine. Combined with other staples such as wheat and rice, meats, such as pork, chicken, and beef (brought by the Spanish) have enriched the cuisine (Galván, 2011).
In conclusion, the unique mix of different values and traditions that have incorporated dance, musical instruments, cuisine, attire, and dressing among other components contribute to the richness of the Bolivian culture. It has evolved over time to include some Western cultures that have made it unique.