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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Indigenous Architecture across Abya Yala (Latin America): Bolivia

Party Hall in El Alto, Bolivia

Freddy Mamani Silvestre, Architect, and Alfredo Zaballos, Photographer. Party Hall in El Alto. Photograph, El Alto, Bolivia. 

Leyenda: La puerta del sol, Tiwanaku, Bolivia. La figura de arriba es el dios creador Tiqzi Wiracocha. El culto a esta deidad se originó en la región de Tiwanaku y se dispersó a lo largo de los Andes. Foto por Wayne Smith, NMAI, 2009. 


Situated within the Amazon basin, Bolivia is a landlocked country with a richly diverse and longstanding Indigenous history. Today, the Quechua and Aymara peoples make up the largest of these groups, but upwards of 30 are nationally recognized, with a large concentration of the former around lower altitudes and grassland areas, and the latter in high plateau regions close to La Paz, Bolivia’s executive and legislative capital. 

At least 40% of Bolivia’s population today is Indigenous, but only recently has there been a resurgence in appreciation for the different art and culture of respective nations on national and international levels. This is largely due to the discrimination of Indigenous peoples in the history of the country, with official recognition and protections passed into law a little over 30 years ago. The materials presented in this guide seek to illuminate certain aesthetic and cultural traditions of indigenous groups within the borders of this country. At the same time, this guide hopes to provide a framework to understand the repeated marginalization of said traditions, as well as how they are being revitalized and reclaimed today. 

Accessing Materials

Some useful initial key words to use for searching for articles or books in the catalogue are: 

  • Indigenous + Bolivia
  • Aymara + Bolivia
  • Bolivian Architecture 
  • Architecture + Aymara
  • Architecture + Indigenous + Bolivia
  • Vernacular Architecture + Bolivia
  • Quecha + Architecture
  • Neo-Andean

Since many resources may be in Spanish, it may be useful to try these key words in Spanish as well. For example:

  • Indígena + Bolivia
  • Arquitectura + Indígena + Bolivia