The Crossroads of Andean, Amazonian, and Chacoan Cultural Landscapes as Manifested in the Folk Houses of Bolivia

Authors: Scott Brown*, Francis Marion University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Latin America, Cultural Ecology
Keywords: folk housing, cultural landscape, Bolivia, Altiplano, Chaco, Amazonian Lowlands
Session Type: Guided Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Folk housing is one of the symbols of material culture that is often employed in understanding regions and places and the people that live within them. It helps us understand and appreciate the geographic expression of culture. As Bolivia lies in the heart of South America at the junction of the cool and dry Andean highlands, the humid Amazonian rainforests, and the dry Chacoan scrublands, likewise it lies at the crossroads of three culture regions that are equally distinctive. Due to sharp variation in climate and vegetation, the cultural landscapes, notably the traditional dwellings, vary greatly between these three major regions in Bolivia. The folk house styles of the Quechua and Ayamara inhabitants in the high deserts of the Altiplano, the smaller indigenous populations, such as the Moxeños, scattered throughout the tropical lowlands of Amazonia in the north, and the Hispanic and indigenous populations, such as the Chiquitanos and Guaranís, in the tropical savannas and scrublands of the Chaco, present unique traits and thereby manifest distinct cultural landscapes. The folk houses clearly demonstrate the stark differences in adaptation, as the peoples of the highlands tend to construct their homes almost entirely with mud brick, while those groups in the lowlands range from wattle and daub, timber, and thatch that are plentiful in the more humid and forested environments to mud and clay for brick in the drier scrublands.

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