SPIRITUALITY
About 95% of Bolivians are Roman Catholic. However, this faith coexists with indigenous beliefs, especially in rural areas. Many people may practice the Catholic religion as well as worship indigenous deities.

Baptisms and First Communions are occasions for gatherings of extended family members. The ceremony of First Communion is held when a child is about seven. After this ceremony, the child is able to participate fully in church services. Children wear new clothes for this event, and little girls are always dressed in white. Even girls from poor families wear special dresses with lace or satin trimming for their First Communion.

In February, celebrations honour the Virgin of Candelaria in Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The Virgin of Candelaria is a statue that depicts the Virgin Mary as a dark-skinned woman. People pray to the Virgin for help with their problems, and many miracles are attributed to her intervention. Catholics may also make a pilgrimage to Quillacollo during the fiesta of the Virgin of Urkupiña (the Virgin of the Mountain). In the 19th century, the Virgin Mary appeared to a young girl in the mountains near Quillacollo, and the site has been considered sacred ever since.

The Incas and, later, Quechua people worshipped Inti (the Sun God), Pachamama (the Earth Goddess), Mama Cocha (the Sea Goddess) and Illampu (the Storm God). The Incas believed that farming was sacred, and many of their holidays and festivals were held at important times during the farming year. Aymara people traditionally honoured their ancestors, as well as Viracocha (the Creator God), Pachamama, Supay (an evil earth spirit) and many minor gods, goddesses and spirits. Ekeko, the Aymara household god who represents abundance, matchmaking, marriage and success, is honoured annually at the Alacitas Festival in La Paz.

Many people give gifts to the gods and the spirits. Evil spirits are thought to be easily insulted and must be appeased for good health and fortune. Amulets and talismans are believed to protect their owners from evil spirits. Since Pachamama, the Earth Goddess, gives crops, people offer her alcohol, coca or food. An image of Pachamama is believed to bring very good luck.

The right to practise different religions is guaranteed in the Bolivian constitution. There are small communities of Baha'is and Jews, as well as several Protestant sects and groups, including Mennonites, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists.

   Did you know?
Jewish people have been living in Bolivia since 1557. After the Second World War, thousands of holocaust survivors came to Bolivia to start a new life.
   Did you know?
Some Bolivians bring their new cars to Copacabana, to the shrine of the Virgin of Candelaria. A local priest blesses the car, and then the owner showers it with champagne.