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People of Bolivia - ORIGIN Magazine

Get to know the South American country through learning about the people who call Bolivia their home

Words: Emily Georgieva

Photography: Kal Loftus

13 March 2019

Bolivia has the highest percentage of indigenous people on the continent. A total of 36 languages are spoken in the country. Spanish is the most common one and Quechua is following behind. Several indigenous languages are how you can hear the locals communicating with each other in many of the areas. The indigenous languages became recognised as official in the 20th century. English is also spoken, but don't be surprised if you don't find a lot of places where people will be able to understand you if you speak to them in English. Outside of the travelling communities, languages such as Aymara, Movima, Itonama and many more are mostly spoken. If you are planning on going there, embrace the local culture, learn some Spanish and you will be able to experience your travels in a whole new way. It is also a great excuse to develop on your multilingual skills.

Bolivia is very culturally rich country. The history of the first inhabitants dates back to very ancient times. The Tiwanku build a city, which had 70 000 inhabitants. They were the first people to every live on those lands. The Tiwanku are a nation more ancient than the Incas. No one is sure when the Empire evolved, but historians agree that the period was sometime 1 300 years before the Incas, which estimates that they existed around the time of the birth of Christ.

Today travellers who go to Bolivia speak highly of the locals as generous people. They are very warm in their welcoming and are used to tourists. If they offer a gift or food to you, it is only polite to take it. Declining it is seen as an insult. Say 'gracias' to their generosity.

Bolivians are from Spanish origin. They are descendants of the colonisers. Those were groups of people from the Andes and mestizos. As before the Spanish invasion part of the territory of Bolivia belonged to Inca, the Aymara and Quechua are direct descendants of the Incas.


Most of the nation is known to be traditional. This applies especially for the elderly people. Some of them carry a lot of history and carefully kept cultural knowledge within them as they are descendants of ancient generations. This can be seen on their faces too. Some locals, who value their traditions and carry them around, show it with their clothing as well. They look very impressive and as their culture can be read on their faces and from their appearances, it is understandable for travellers to want to take a picture of them and seal the moment, but make sure to aways ask for permission to do so first.

A lot of Bolivia's culture is transported upon its people. It is important when visiting the country to take some time and think how far back their history dates. Bolivians are a living prove times change, but culture lives forever.

If you want to learn more about Bolivia, you can read more of our content about the country.



NOMADSofORIGIN is an independent annual publication with a focus on sustainable travelling and global cultural values. Each issue features interviews, engaging articles and photo guides, which take our nomadic readers through different destinations and introduce them to local people's perspectives.



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