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Snapshot of Bolivia – Bolivia has 37 official languages, the most dominant being Spanish. Quechua, Aymara, and Guarani are the next-most prevalent languages. Portuguese is also spoken in areas close to Brazil. Bolivia’s population is primarily Roman Catholic (though many mix their Catholic beliefs with indigenous practices), though Protestantism is increasing. 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 fussball) is a popular game. 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-kebabs that are popular with street vendors, often made with chicken hearts).
The Bolivia Santa Cruz Mission has both small jungle villages and large bustling cities. One day you could be cutting down weeds with a machete and the next you be walking the dusty streets of a big city. The LDS church is actively growing in Santa Cruz, the missionaries well accepted and treated kindly. Bolivians are traditional, accepting, loving and humble. Despite their lack of material things they will still invite you to share whatever they have.
There are 8 stakes and districts located within the boundaries of the Bolivia Santa Cruz mission, as well as a few mission branches in more rural areas. The Church is strongest in Santa Cruz and Tarija – these cities have relatively large member populations, as evidenced by the presence of CES Institutes and other Church resources in these cities. The region is served by the Cochabamba Bolivia temple, which lies outside mission boundaries, requiring significant travel time for local members.
Lunch is the largest and most important meal in Bolivian culture, and is traditionally followed by a “siesta,” or nap. This meal generally begins with a soup, followed by a main course of rice, potatoes and a meat dish, followed by dessert.
Some popular regional foods include Locro, a thick chicken and rice soup that is also made with potatoes and other vegetables, as well as churrasco (grilled meat typically served with rice or yuca). Empanadas (also called salteñas) and cuñapé (a type of cheese bread) are popular street foods. If you still need some American food, McDonalds restaurants are located in some of the larger cities!
Missionaries will generally get around either by walking or by using public transportation. Busses travel from city to city throughout the country, and smaller busses, known as “micros” are often used for transportation within a city.
The biggest safety concern for missionaries in Bolivia comes from robbery. Try not to wear clothing or accessories that make you appear wealthy. Be aware of your surroundings, and lock your apartment so as not to be robbed while out working! Most water in Bolivia is not potable, so try to only drink bottled water.
The siesta is a common daily practice throughout Bolivia. This post-lunch nap is held in high regard, and most businesses close during this time. In the city of Tarija, the siesta lasts from noon to 3 PM as families reunite to eat lunch and then nap before returning to work.
Both Catholic and indigenous traditions have a large influence on Bolivian culture. Music and dancing play major roles in popular festivals such as Carnaval, and many towns and regions have their own unique local celebrations.
Santa Cruz has a rich history and is home to many cultural and artistic sites (including several art galleries and museums), as well as natural sites such as the Lomas de Arena (a sand dune area close to Santa Cruz). Other interesting locations within mission boundaries include Kaa-lya del Gran Chaco National Park, which is one of the largest national parks in South America and is home to several unique species of plants and animals, as well as native Guaraní and Chiquitanos villages.
Casilla de Correo 2042
Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz
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*What items were hard to get or not available?
Decent deodorant, maple syrup, real milk, good cereal.
*What did you eat the most of?
“Rice and chicken, pork, or vegetables. Native fruits, fried banana and loads of bread.”
What is the craziest thing you ate?
“Armadillo, aligator and strange parts of a bull.”
*What was most surprising about the culture
“Everyone in Bolivia, even if they are dirt poor, owns a TV. Bolivians are very welcoming and willing to open their homes. They are also very laid back and even lackadaisical. They are committed to their siesta.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to this mission?
“Talk to everyone that you can. Slow down and be willing to meet everyone.”
“Be ready for the heat and the cold. It’s humid and windy at different times of the year. Wear short sleeve shirts and bring a jacket.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“I wish I would have focused more on teaching skills. I had a testimony and language will come, but I wish I would have spent less time learning to teach.”
“Don’t be afraid to talk to people because of your language. Mistakes are ok and help you learn. My spanish improved when I said words out loud when ever I saw anything.”
**Did you serve in the Bolivia Santa Cruz Mission? If so we want to hear from you! Share your experiences here or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org**