The Aymara Language in Its Social and Cultural Context: A Collection Essays on Aspects of Aymara Language and Culture

By M. J. Hardman | Go to book overview

1. Social and Cultural Context of the Aymara in Bolivia Today

Carlos Saavedra

It is the intent in this paper to discuss the problems of interaction in situations involving two groups of distinct cultural and lingual characteristics where one group is dominant over the other. The position of the dominant group will often be determined by the social, economic, and political aspects of the history of initial contact. The focus of this paper, written from the point of view of social linguistics, will be on the reasons for the dominance of one culture and language (the Hispanic) over another (the Aymara) and the reasons for the persistence of this situation today.

In Bolivia at least three major independent languages are spoken-- Spanish, Aymara, and Quechua--each defining both language and culture. The Hispanic culture group is identified with the white-mestizo groups with their particular ties to urban-rural dwelling and social class. The other languages, Quechua and those of small ethnic groups found both in the highlands and the lowlands, will be excluded in this study; only the problems of interaction between the Hispanic and the Aymara cultures will be brought to light.

In Bolivia the Hispanic culture has unquestionably taken the position of dominance; however, the dissemination of the language and the culture to the other culture groups has not been complete because of the policy that ignorance of Spanish would serve to further the subservient position of the Indian. Thus members of the dominant group have often

____________________
This essay, originally titled "Lack of Interaction between Two Culture Groups: Bolivia: A Case Study," was prepared for a linguistics seminar in Fall 1971. For Saavedra, himself a Bolivian "Hispanic," this term paper in many ways represented a voyage of self-discovery as his study of the Aymara language and personal acquaintance with Aymara people in the United States caused him to reflect on the situation he knew in Bolivia. It was also a voyage of discovery for

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