Bolivia : Culture

Bolivian society in the late 1980s remained broken along lines of region, ethnic affiliation, and class. Profound differences existed between the Andean area and the eastern lowlands. With the exception of the Santa Cruz area in the lowlands, the Andes remained the most heavily settled region. The lowlands had a distinct culture, ecology, and economic history, reflecting in part a long history of isolation from most of national life. The 1952 Revolution and consequent far-reaching changes affected the lowlands and highlands in strikingly different ways.

Class loyalties and affiliation reflected ethnic identification. The upper class consisted of a white elite that based its sense of privilege not merely on wealth but on proper lineage and breeding as well. The middle class--a various, vaguely defined group including everyone from small shopkeepers to prosperous professionals and business owners without the elite family background--was mestizo. It arose as a politically self-conscious group during the twentieth-century mining boom and joined with wage earners in the 1952 Revolution to bring about much of the present configuration of society.

contempt far-reaching social changes, society remained profoundly oriented to kin and family. People of all classes and ethnic groups focused their deepest loyalties on their small community or neighborhood and a close-knit group of relatives. Family and kin offered a haven amid the economic uncertainties and political turmoil of the 1980s, providing a safety net for poorer Bolivians and a pool of trusted allies for those of greater means. Individuals consulted with kin on all valuable decisions, and social life centered mainly on family visits.

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