Bolivia – Spanish Language and Culture
Population: 9.9 million (2009)
Capital: Sucre (official), La Paz (administrative)
Area: 1.1 million km² (424,164 sq miles)
Currency: Boliviano (BOB)
National Holiday: 6th of august
Calling Code: + 591
Time Zone: GMT -4
GDP: Total – US$ 17.464 billion
Per Capita – US$ 1,707
The Spanish Language in Bolivia
The Spanish in Bolivia is broken down into two general accents; that of the Andes and that of the lowlands. The main distinction lies in the influences (or lack thereof) of other native languages. In the Andes, Spanish is often a second language spoken only after Quechua or Aymara. Unlike many other forms of Spanish spoken in the Southern Cone of South America, Andean Spanish pronounces the letter S clearly and also uses "lleismo". Lowland Spanish (which includes many different dialects) shares small influences from other Amerindian cultures but has retained a lot of characteristics of colonial Spanish. A characterizing trait is the aspiration of the final ‘s’ in a word, and the use of the diminutive “ingo”.
Special words and expressions
- estoy camote de ella – I am in love with her
- creo que voy a buitrear/arrojar – I think I am going to throw-up
- el es un atolondrado – he is awkward / a klutz / not smooth
- hoy estoy yesca – today I am broke
- estaba wato / chupado – he was drunk
- estaba bien mula – he was very drunk
- t’una – small
- pajla – bald
- chorrear / afanar / melear – to rob, to steal
- lagartear – to laze around
- tíli –child, kid
- macana – bad thing, bad luck
Other languages spoken
- Over 30 native languages and dialects (including Quechua, Aymara, and Guaraní) are now official languages of Boilvia thanks to a public referendum that was passed in 2009
- Quechua (most common indigenous language)
- Aymara (2nd most spoken indigenous language)
- Avá guaraní (form of Guaraní spoken in Bolivia and 3rd most spoken indigenous language)
- German – 160,000 speakers. There are large German-speaking Mennonite communities in some regions of Bolivia
Spanish dialects and variations
- As a result of all the different native languages throughout the country, Bolivian Spanish differs greatly from region to region
- The eastern lowland parts of Bolivia due to their proximity to Argentina and Uruguay speak a Spanish more closely related to Rioplatense.
- In the highlands to the west the dialect is Andean and possesses many influences from the Quechua language.
Geography and Climate
Bolivia has very diverse terrain ranging from tropical rainforest and plains in the lowlands to the highlands of the vast Altiplano, and the jagged mountain chain of the Andes. Weather is typically warmer between November and March at which time there is heavy rainfall, especially in the lowlands. Winter months are cold in the highlands and in some areas it is common to snow. In the lowlands on the other hand, these months are the most pleasant.
History & Politics
Bolivia was conquered by the Spanish and became the empire’s main supplier of silver. It gained its independence in 1824 with the aid of the Venezuelan liberator, Simon Bolivar, who gave his name to the country. During wars with its neighboring countries Bolivia lost first its mineral-rich coast to Chile and then its rubber-rich rainforest to Brazil. Bolivia is almost two-thirds indigenous and rebellion against the Bolivians of European descent has been common throughout its history. In 1967, Che Guevara led an uprising of peasants and was killed here. In 2005 the first indigenous president was elected; socialist Evo Morales. He has since installed drastic changes in the political arena and carried out reforms that have worked to nationalize resources and equalize wealth.
¿Sabías qué….? Roberto Suárez Goméz aka, “the king of cocaine”, in Bolivia gained international notoriety when he offered to pay Bolivia’s foreign debt of $3 billion
in exchange for the release of his son who was arrested for drug traffic in the U.S.
Bolivia’s media is highly monopolized and entirely privatized. Although certain controversial topics are avoided, the Bolivian constitution promotes freedom of press and does not censor media outlets. Because of a low literacy rate and many remote rural areas, the radio is the most common source of news in Bolivia.