Bolivian Language and Religion


Spanish, Quechua, and Aymará are all official languages. Spanish as spoken by educated Bolivians differs less from Castilian than do the dialects of many regions in Spain itself. An increasing number of Amerindians also speak Spanish.


Roman Catholicism is the official religion. As such, the Roman Catholic Church receives support from the state and exercises a certain degree of political influence through the Bolivian Bishops' Conference. Courses in Catholicism are offered in public schools, but students of other faiths are not required to attend. Non-Catholic organizations register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship for tax and legal benefits, but unregistered groups are not restricted from gathering. Freedom of religion is provided for in the constitution and this right is generally respected in practice.

According to a 2001 survey, about 78% of the population were Roman Catholic. Between 16 and 19% of the population were Protestant, including Mennonites, Lutherans, Mormons, Methodists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Baptists, Pentecostals, and various evangelical groups. There is a Mormon temple in Cochabamba which is believed to serve more than 100,000 Mormons from across the country. Less than 0.2% of the population were affiliated with other faiths such as Judaism, Bahaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Shintoism. There is a small Jewish community with a synagogue in La Paz, as well as a Muslim community with a mosque in Santa Cruz. Korean immigrants also have a church in La Paz.

Indigenous beliefs and rituals are exercised by the Aymará, Quechua, Guarani, and Chiquitano, many of whom practice a blend of Roman Catholicism and traditional customs. Common traditional beliefs include a focus on Pachamama, who is a mother earth figure, and Akeko, a god of luck, harvests, and abundance.