Bolivian culture has been strongly influenced by the Quechua, the Aymara, as well as by the popular cultures of all Latin America.
The cultural development is divided into three distinct periods: Pre-Columbian, Colonial and Republican. Important archaeological ruins, gold and silver jewellery, stone monuments, ceramics and weavings are preserved from several important pre-Columbian cultures. Among the most important ruins are Tiwanaku, El Fuerte de Samaipata, Inkallaqta and Iskanawaya. The country is rich in other sites that are difficult to access and little explored archaeologically.
The Spaniards brought with them their own tradition of religious art which, in the hands of indigenous and mestizo builders and craftsmen, developed into a rich and distinctive style of architecture, painting and sculpture known as “mestizo baroque”. The colonial period produced not only the paintings of Pérez de Holguín, Flores, Bitti and others, but also the works of skilled but unknown stonemasons, woodcarvers, goldsmiths and silversmiths. An important corpus of indigenous baroque religious music from the colonial period has been recovered and has been performed internationally with great success since 1994.
Among the most important Bolivian artists of the 20th century are María Luisa Pacheco, Roberto Mamani Mamani, Alejandro Mario Yllanes, Alfredo Da Silva and Marina Núñez del Prado.
Bolivia has a rich folklore. Its regional folk music is distinct and diverse. The “devil’s dances” of the annual Oruro carnival are one of the great folkloric events of South America, as is the lesser known Tarabuco carnival. The most famous of the country’s various festivals is the “Carnaval de Oruro”, which was declared one of the first 19 “masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity” by UNESCO in May 2001.
Entertainment includes football.
Bolivian cuisine is mainly a combination of Spanish cuisine with traditional indigenous Aymara/Inca ingredients, to which were later added the influences of German, Italian, Basque, Russian, Polish and Arab immigrants.
Artistic and popular references
Published in 2011, Caroline Alethia‘s novel Plant Teacher is set in Bolivia between 2007 and 2008, and explores themes of politics, indigenous religions and narco-tourism.