Bolivia: Multiculturalism, Globalization, and Social Change

Explore how concepts of development and cultural identity are being creatively re-defined in Bolivia, a country with 36 ethnic groups and the first indigenous president in South America.

Interested students can produce a documentary film (View previous films) or publish a bilingual children's book in support of local cultures and social change.

This program examines how Bolivia's landscapes and multiethnic population offer remarkable contrasts and challenges to previously held notions of development.  Students explore Andean and Amazonian cultures and cosmovision and the layered growth of Bolivia's multiethnic social system under the pressures of globalization.

Students meet with Bolivian intellectuals and activists, artists and artisans, musicians and filmmakers, union members and miners, feminists and indigenous leaders, shamans and environmentalists. Program lecturers are leaders and experts at institutions such as The Democracy Center, Centro de Estudios Superiores Universitarios, Mujeres Creando, and the Andean Information Network.

Based in the city of Cochabamba in central Bolivia, students also undertake multiple field excursions, including to the tropical lowlands, the Andeansaltiplano, Lake Titicaca, and El Alto, the largest indigenous city in Latin America. Students share daily life with Bolivians by living with urban-mestizo and rural-indigenous families, through the program's homestays

Home to the largest indigenous population in the Americas, Bolivia also possesses some of the world's richest natural resources and yet has the lowest per-capita income in South America. In this context, students explore how the Aymara, Quechua, and Guarani peoples are increasingly gaining greater recognition and power.

View a photo presentation of the inauguration of President Evo Morales, the first indigenous president in South America, who was inaugurated in Tiwanaku, a pre-colonial and pre-Incan archeological site considered sacred by native communities.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects/Undergraduate Research

Engage in creative and non-traditional research projects in support of local Bolivian communities and social change. Interested students on this program are able to conduct a wide range of non-traditional research projects as highlighted in the following examples.

Documentary filmmaking 
Produce a documentary film under the guidance of award-winning documentary film-maker Ismael Saavedra, the program's former co-academic director and documentary film coordinator. Read about Ismael Saavedra's work on social justice and documentary filmmaking and watch documentary video projects on YouTube made by SIT students in Bolivia.

Bilingual children's book project
Write a bilingual children's book under the guidance of the program's academic director Heidi Baer-Postigo and renowned Bolivian author Gaby Vallejo. Learn how Kids’ Books Bolivia contributes to the production of affordable books celebrating Bolivian reality and serves to raise international awareness about Bolivia's rich cultures and pressing social issues.

Art, literature, music, dance, theater, radio, weaving, and photography
This program supports interested students in conducting research projects using a variety of non-traditional formats.
Laura Sprinkle "I plan to pursue a degree in international development and continue to promote human rights through education."

Laura always knew she wanted to be a part of a social change movement and after her semester with SIT that path became clearer. Laura wrote and illustrated a bilingual children’s book as part of her program’s Independent Study Project, thereby becoming part of a broader movement begun by SIT students and staff in Bolivia to improve child literacy and cultural awareness in local communities. Laura returned to Bolivia on an Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship, awarded by World Learning, to develop after-school literacy and storytelling programs.

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Cochabamba

Language Study: Quechua,  Spanish

Prerequisites: 3 semesters Spanish


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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