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Bolivia’s culture is greatly influenced by the many indigenous ethnic groups within its borders, particularly the Quechua and Aymara. Traditional clothing and dancing is still seen at many festivities, many of which mix Christian and indigenous practices. The Carnaval de Oruro is considered one of the most important cultural festivities.
Traditional culture is also seen in the many types of folk music present in Bolivia. Other Latin music styles are also popular in the country. Soccer is Bolivia’s most popular sport, and table soccer (also known as foosball) is a popular game.
We are still collecting information on the Bolivia La Paz Mission. If you served in this mission and are willing to share your experiences with us, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The church is experiencing rapid growth like much of South America. However, the church is still relatively young and inexperienced. Priesthood leadership is strongest in the inner cities and gets weaker and weaker into the countryside. Members are amazingly faithful and dedicated to the Gospel.
Lunch is the most important meal in Bolivia and is often followed by a siesta, or nap.
Lunch generally includes a soup, a main course that includes rice, potatoes, and a meat dish, followed by a dessert. Popular dishes include locro (a stew made from corn, beef, beans, and potato), pique macho (a plate of beef, sausage, boiled eggs, and french fries), and anticuchos (shish-kababs that are popular with street vendors, often made with chicken hearts).
Sopa de maní is a local dish. It’s a soup made from nuts and topped with French fries. Pollo picante is a spicy chicken with a red-looking sauce Mate is the beverage of choice. It is a kind of tea that everyone drinks and is church appropriate.
The cheese and milk are very different in Bolivia are very different from what is sold in the United States and can take a while for American missionaries to get used to them. They do not need to be refrigerated and are thicker than what is found in the United States.
There are small stores connected to people’s homes where you can get pan (bread), milk, eggs, toothpaste, yogurt, and many other goods. This eliminates the need for frequent trips to a larger supermarket. Most people in Bolivia do not have cars so it’s convenient to be able to walk outside and find one of these stores.
The main mode of transportation is by “micros.” They are small buses that stop when passengers request. While riding, the passenger will raise their hand, alerting the driver to stop. A bus ride typically costs about one and a half pesos per person. The micros travel all over the major cities and are identified by the number on the front of each micro.
Many homes have jail-style bars on the windows to help deter theft. Robbery is relatively common in Bolivia, so missionaries should take precautions to avoid dangerous areas and not carry expensive items with them. Missionaries generally stay safe by using common sense and following mission rules and safety guidelines. There are also large populations of wild dogs, so missionaries should be aware of those as well.
Every year Bolivians have a celebration called Carnival. Many celebrate the holiday by getting drunk. Kids and teenagers buy water guns and squirt people that drive by and throw water balloons at passersby. Youth also throw paint at whomever is nearby. Families get together for birthdays, Christmas and the carnival.
20 de Octubre 2550
La Paz, Bolivia
These answers are from a missionary who served in Bolivia from 2010-2012.
What did you eat the most of?
“We would eat something with chicken every day. We also ate soup for every lunch. Pique de Machu was my favorite meal. They also love bread and hot chocolate. Mate is the most consumed drink. At night, Bolivians gather together, share mate and bread talk about their days.”
What is the craziest thing you ate?
“The craziest thing I ate was monkey. I didn’t know it was monkey until after I ate it! It was not that bad. We would also have cow intestines. They were terrible.”
What was most surprising about the culture?
“While Bolivia is a dangerous place, parents there are not worried about their kids being harmed. Little kids walk around everywhere. I never heard of kids getting kidnapped. The locals still wash their clothes by hand. Most Bolivian women wear the same kind of clothing. They wear a long dress with pockets in the front to carry the items they want to sell.
Most Bolivians are hard workers. They wake up very early in the morning and work late into the night to sell their fruits and vegetables. They are very family oriented,
Families usually live in close proximity. Young married couples often live with their parents. Sundays are when Bolivians make the most money.”
What advice would you give to someone going to this Mission?
“Become like the Bolivians! Get rid of anything expensive like nice watches or nice backpacks. Try and fit into their culture as much as possible. They will love you more if you look more like them and speak like them. They love it also when you learn a little bit of their dialects and indigenous languages like Quechua, Aymara, and Guarani. “
“La Paz has more Aymara speakers. Learn their phrases and slang. They love it! Make sure to love soccer because they love soccer and it’s a way to make friends with the native people on preparation days.”
What do you wish you had known before you served?
“It took me some time, but I think the most important thing I learned was to praise the local church members. The Church is young and inexperienced, but if you always complain about what they are not doing right, it will eat you up and take so much of your energy.
Even if they aren’t doing a really good job, just tell them you can see that they are working hard. Tell them they are the best ward or best bishop you’ve ever met and go out and serve with them. If you are always positive toward them, they will want to help and will feel good about themselves. It works every time.”