Bolivia Culture and Traditions

Customs and traditions

The family is the center of social life and framework in Bolivia. Families have strong networks and in rural areas, several generations often live in the same household. Gender roles are traditional and society is male-dominated.

There is a class society with certain ethnic characteristics, but the social differences do not depend as much on skin color as on economic factors. For historical reasons, the white minority is at the top of the social ladder.

  • Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Bolivia, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.

Personal relationships are important

Personal relationships are the key to being able to progress in society. This has a back side in the form of widespread nepotism and corruption. It is often decisive who knows who. For example, a friend can arrange a meeting with someone whose calendar is really full, a well-known policeman can avoid punishment and so on.

Cultivating their contacts is therefore important. In business, the first meetings are usually used to get to know each other and create trust. It is wise to wait for signs that the other party is ready to start talking business. The meeting culture is often relaxed, but there is also a requirement for a certain formality. Titles are important and should be used. People who do not have titles are addressed with señor or señora and the surname.

Know and label

The most common way of health is with a handshake and direct eye contact. The greeting phrases follow the clock: buenos slide (good morning), buenas tardes (good day) and buenas noches (good evening). People who are close to each other can greet with a hug or a pat on the shoulder. Women usually kiss on the cheek.

Times and schedules are flexible. Business meetings often start some half hour after the appointed time and you can get a rebate at the last minute. Discussions are ongoing until they are considered closed. It’s not about being jaded or showing impatience. It is rare to make decisions at meetings, they are mainly for discussion and exchange of ideas.

Parties and dance are common occurrences and it is important to take part in such events in order to develop relationships. For invitations, you are often a little late. When you meet, it is important to get to know each other and you should preferably not discuss business at social gatherings.

To table

The host usually says ” buen provecho “, about a tasty meal, when it’s time to take care of the food. It is considered polite to first refuse and allow the host to threaten for a while before accepting. When the meal is over you do not give up immediately but stop and socialize.

In the chilly climate of the highlands the food is usually hot spiced (picante), but you can ask to have it cooked mid picante or poco picante (medium or less hot). Potatoes and meat are the most common main raw materials, but fish are also eaten, mainly trout from Lake Titicaca.

In the lowlands, freshwater fish, vegetables and fruits are popular foods. In the restaurants, meat and eggs are often served from endangered species.

In addition to regular tea and coffee, a lot of tea is consumed on coca leaves (mate de coca) and a sweet breakfast tea (api), made on corn, lemon, cloves and cinnamon. There are local wines. A popular drink consists of a by-product of the wine (singani), flavored with lemon. The most popular local beverage, at least in Cochabamba, is chicha cochabamba, an alcoholic beverage fermented on corn.


According to Countryaah, New Year, Easter and Christmas are important holidays. Bolivia’s National Day is celebrated on August 6. January 24 is a celebration of Ekeko’s honor in La Paz and the mountain areas in the west. Ekeko is, according to folk tales, the god of prosperity and prosperity, usually depicted as a cheerful little man with a cap, and he can fulfill material desires. The day of prosperity and prosperity is a festival celebrated with markets and trade fairs in the Catholic churches.

Bolivia Immigration Statistics



Bolivia and Paraguay resume relations

According to Abbreviationfinder, Bolivia and Paraguay formally re-establish their bilateral relations (see June 2012).

COB supports MAS

COB states its support for President Morales and his party MAS ahead of the October 2014 elections. COB is traditionally allied with MAS, but has been on a collision course with the government several times in recent times (see January 2011, April 2011, January 2013 and May 2013). However, two organizations that gather indigenous people have distanced themselves from MAS and said they will stand against the ruling party in the election.

Extra annual bonus before the election

President Morales issues a decree that a second annual bonus should be paid to employees, provided GDP growth is at least 4.5 percent on an annual basis. As before, everyone gets an extra salary at Christmas. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), growth is projected to be around 6.7 percent in 2013. Business and the Catholic Church accuse Morales of election fraud and fear inflation will be tightened.


Deadly violence in coca cultivation

Four members of an intervention force are killed in connection with the destruction of coca crops in the department of La Paz in the northwest. This is the first time something similar has happened under Morale’s rule and he blames the drug smugglers from Peru.

The head of government is arrested for selling coca

The head of the authority that oversees boil cultivation in the country is arrested, suspected of having sold boil to narcotic drugs. Luis Cutipa is also accused of forging documents to get his job done.


Protestants protest against registration coercion

Protestants hold large demonstrations in five cities in protest of a new law requiring registration of religious communities with the authorities (see March 2013 and Religion).


Protest against American surveillance

President Morales announces that he has stopped using email. He accuses intelligence services in the United States of having hacked into his and other leading Bolivian email accounts. Morales and a number of other Latin American leaders have protested against US-wide surveillance, revealed by spy-accused IT expert Edward Snowden. Bolivia is one of the countries that have offered Snowden political asylum.

Diplomatic conflict after forced landing

A diplomatic conflict arises when President Evo Morale’s plan on his way home from Moscow is forced down in Austria and held for half a day. The reason is that France, Italy, Portugal and Spain closed their airspace on suspicion that US spy accused Edward Snowden would be on board the plane. Bolivia calls it “kidnapping”, threatens to close the US embassy and reports the four European countries to the UN Human Rights Commissioner. After a short time, Morales says he accepts apologies made from the four countries and returns the ambassadors he called home.


Miners’ union on strike

The government has again landed on collision course with former allies. The influential miners’ union requires raising pensions to 100 percent of the final salary instead of 70 percent. A strike is carried out and a bridge is blown up. Several people were injured in the explosion and hundreds of people were arrested.

New law allows for a third term of office

A law is passed that allows Morales to stand in the next election, in accordance with the April court decision. Opposition politicians condemn the law as unconstitutional.

Usaid not welcome in Bolivia

In a May 1 speech, Morales announced that the US aid agency Usaid is no longer welcome in Bolivia. He accuses Usaid of trying to undermine his left government and conspire against the country.


Morales is allowed to run for a third time

The Constitutional Court decides that President Evo Morales may stand for election in 2014, even though the Constitution allows only two consecutive terms. According to the court, the restriction does not include Morales since he has only been elected once since the rule was introduced in 2009.

Chile sues at the ICJ

Bolivia sues Chile before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to gain access to the coast. Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca says that Bolivia has not been heard for its request by Chile to grant the neighboring country “sovereign access” to the Pacific (see Foreign Policy and Defense).


Enforcement of registration for churches and organizations

A new law is enacted which makes it mandatory for all churches and nonprofits to re-register with the authorities. They must submit detailed information on membership, finances and the organization’s management.


COB forms the workers’ party

COB forms a new party, the Labor Party (PT). The COB has been close to Morale’s party MAS but has been in conflict with the government on several issues.

MAS loses governor elections

The ruling party MAS suffers an election defeat when the party’s candidate loses the governor’s election in Beni.

Bolivia gets exceptions in UN convention

In a victory for the government, Bolivia rejoins the United Nations Convention on Drugs, with a special exception that recognizes the legitimacy of chewing cabbage leaves in the country. In 2012, Bolivia passed the convention in protest against the fact that the cook was considered illegal.

The US is accused of destabilization

The government says it has unequivocal evidence that the US embassy in the country has tried to destabilize Morale’s government. The evidence is to be handed over to US President Barack Obama, it says. Although the two countries agreed in 2011 to reestablish diplomatic relations, no ambassadors have been appointed yet (see further Foreign Policy and Defense). The US embassy in La Paz is led by a chargé d’affaires.

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