Bolivia Emigration and Immigration

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How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Online Sources[edit | edit source]

Offices and Archives to Contact[edit | edit source]

Archivo y Biblioteca Nacionales de Bolivia
Calle Dalence, 4.
793 Sucre.

Tel.: (00 591 ) 46460207

  • Ministerio del Interior: In 1888, this ministry took charge of the Colonisation section, thus becoming responsible for fostering foreign immigration and promoting the establishment of colonies in Bolivia.
  • Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores: Holds the census of foreign nationals from 1942 to 1953.

La Dirección General de Migración
Avenida Camacho entre Bueno y Loayza
La Paz, Bolivia

Phone: (591-2) 2110960
Fax: (591-2) 2110955

  • It has several relevant series for this topic such as the census of foreign nationals, family ties, passports, etc.

Finding the Town of Origin in Bolivia[edit | edit source]

If you are using emigration/immigration records to find the name of your ancestors' town in Bolivia, see Bolivia Finding Town of Origin for additional research strategies.

Background[edit | edit source]

  • Bolivia comparatively has experienced far less immigration than its South American neighbors. Nevertheless, small groups of Germans, Spaniards, Italians, a small Yugoslavian community, and others live in the country.
  • The Basques were a large source of Spanish and European immigration from the late 16th to early 20th centuries. Most came as shepherds and ranchers to Bolivia's vast livestock industry.
  • Similar to other Latin American nations, Bolivia has experienced a small Japanese migration. Beginning in 1899, a small migration of Japanese began that continued until the 1970s. Small Japanese communities were formed in the Bolivian department of Santa Cruz.
  • Other East Asians (Taiwanese and Chinese) and West Asians (Lebanese and Syrians) developed their own communities in Bolivia in the late 20th century.
  • During the 20th century Bolivia received a small number of Jews, mainly Ashkenazi.[1]

Bolivia Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

"Emigration" means moving out of a country. "Immigration" means moving into a country. Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigrating) or arriving (immigrating) in the country. These sources may be passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, or records of passports issued. The information in these records may include the emigrants’ names, ages, occupations, destinations, and places of origin or birthplaces. Sometimes they also show family groups.

Immigration into Bolivia[edit | edit source]

Afro-Bolivians[edit | edit source]

  • The Afro-Bolivians are recognized as one of the constituent ethnic groups of Bolivia by the country's government, and are ceremonially led by a king who traces his descent back to a line of monarchs that reigned in Africa during the medieval period. They numbered 23,330 according to the 2012 census.
  • In 1544, the Spanish Conquistadors discovered the silver mines in Potosí. They began enslaving the natives as workers in the mines., but the health of the natives working in the mines became very poor. By the beginning of the 17th century, the Spanish mine owners and barons began bringing in African slaves in high numbers to help work the mines.
  • Many of these Native and African workers' lives were cut short because of the toxic smelter fumes and mercury vapors they inhaled. It is estimated that as many as eight million Africans and Natives died from working the mines between 1545 to 1825 from harsh conditions, including asbestos, toxic gases, cave-ins, and explosions.
  • After their emancipation in the 19th century, Afro-Bolivians would relocate to a place called the Yungas, which is not far north from the city of La Paz.
  • It has been estimated that 25,000 Afro-Bolivians live in the Yungas. Afro-Bolivians spread to the east in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra. In Santa Cruz there are more Afro-Brazilians than Afro-Bolivians. [2]

Basque Bolivians[edit | edit source]

The Basques were a large source of Spanish and European immigration from the late 16th to early 20th centuries, most came as shepherds and ranchers to Bolivia's vast livestock industry.[3]

Croatian Bolivians[edit | edit source]

  • Croatian immigration to Bolivia was a migratory movement that traces its roots to the 19th century, during the settlement of the Chaco plains of central South America. The Croatian government estimates that the Croatian diaspora in Bolivia has an estimated 5,000 people, including immigrants and descendants of third and fourth generation.
  • The first Croatian immigrants, mostly from the province of Dalmatia, arrived between the mid-19th century and early 20th centuries.
  • These immigrants settled mainly in the eastern region of the country, in the city of Santa Cruz; in Cochabamba; and in the southern region, around Tarija. Included are Istro-Romanians, who became adjusted to Bolivian society because of the linguistic similarities between Istro-Romanian and Spanish, as well as Latin identity of Istro-Romanians.[4]

Japanese Bolivians[edit | edit source]

  • Since Bolivia has no coast, the 'first Japanese settlers came from neighboring Peru where their contracts ended prior to the 1950s.
  • Most Japanese settlers had origins from Okinawa, while the rest from Gifu, Hiroshima, Kanagawa and Osaka prefectures.
  • Some of the settlers left Peru for Bolivia after epidemics of disease hit the settlers in Peru.
  • In 1899, Mapiri River Region in La Paz experienced the first entrance of 91 Japanese workers assigned for rubber plantations. Since then, Andes Mountains continued to attract few more hundreds of Japanese laborers, who luckily caught work in mining and railroad construction.
  • The inland Amazon River region appeared as the second main destination for the workers, who also came through Peru to work on rubber plantations in northwestern Bolivia.
  • The end of World War I and Great Depression shifted Japanese workers in the rubber and mining industries respectively. The only places in Bolivia that survived changes were the town of Riberalta and La Paz, which served as the Japanese commercial activities.
  • In the 1930s, most Japanese remained as settlers and many brought wives from their home country while most married local women; these made difference that divided the community.
  • After World War II, the government warmly permitted Japanese refugees. Treaties after 1954 guided in a new chapter of Japanese Bolivian history and the massive influx of agricultural settlers from U.S.-controlled Okinawa and mainland Japan. The need of relocating surplus populations from war-torn Japan met the Bolivian government's wish to develop the eastern lower lands in Santa Cruz Department. With the financial help of the Japanese government, Colonia Okinawa and Colonia San Juan de Yapacaní were established.[5]

Jews in Bolivia[edit | edit source]

  • The history of the Jews in Bolivia stretches from the colonial period to the end of the 19th century. In the 19th century, Jewish merchants (both Sephardim and Ashkenazim) came to Bolivia, most of them taking local women as wives and founding families that merged into the mainstream Catholic society. This was often the case in the eastern regions of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando, where these merchants came either from Brazil or Argentina.
  • In the colonial period, marranos from Spain settled in the country. Some worked in the silver mines in Potosi and others were among the pioneers that helped found Santa Cruz de la Sierra in 1557. (Marranos were Spanish and Portuguese Jews living in the Iberian Peninsula who converted or were forced to *convert to Christianity during the Middle Ages, yet continued to practice Judaism in secrecy.)

During the 20th century, substantial Jewish settlement began in Bolivia. In 1905, a group of Russian Jews, followed by Argentine Jews and later a few Sephardi families from Turkey and the near east, settled in Bolivia.

  • In 1917, it was estimated that there were only 20 to 25 professing Jews living in the country. By 1933, when the Nazi era in Germany started, there were 30 Jewish families. The first large influx of Jewish immigrants was in the 1930s and there were 7,000 of them estimated at the end of 1942.
  • After World War II, a small number of Polish Jews came to Bolivia.[6]

German Bolivians[edit | edit source]

German immigrants began to arrive in Bolivia in the 18th century, and many more arrived in the 19th century. During World War II, Bolivia ceased diplomatic relations with Germany and expelled many Germans. Many German Jews immigrated to Bolivia during the war.[7]

Mennonites in Bolivia[edit | edit source]

  • In the early-to-mid 16th century, Mennonites began to move from the Low Countries to the Vistula delta region of Prussia, seeking religious freedom and exemption from military service.

I*n the 1760s, Catherine the Great of Russia invited Mennonites from Prussia to settle north of the Black Sea in exchange for religious freedom and exemption from military service, a precondition founded in their commitment to non-violence. The ancestors of the Bolivian Mennonites settled in South Russia two main waves in the years 1789 and 1804, leaving Danzig and the Polish Vistula delta because they were being annexed by Prussia.

  • After Russia introduced the general conscription in 1874, many Mennonites migrated to the US and Canada. n the years after 1873 some 11,000 left the Russian Empire and settled in Manitoba, Canada, and an equal number went to Kansas, Nebraska and Dakota territory.
  • The Russian Mennonites settled in Canada until a universal, secular compulsory education was implemented in 1917 that required the use of the English language, which the more conservative Mennonites saw as a threat to the religious basis of their community. The more conservative Mennonites from Russia, some 6,000 people, left Canada between 1922 and 1925 and settled in Mexico. Another 1,800 more conservative Mennonites migrated to the Chaco region in Paraguay in 1927.
  • In 1930 and in 1947 the Paraguayian Mennonites were joined by Mennonites coming directly from Russia. In the years after 1958 some 1,700 Mennonites from the Mexican settlements moved to what was then British Honduras and today is Belize.
  • The Bolivian government granted a privilege to future Mennonite immigrants including freedom of religion, private schools and exemption from military service in the 1930s, but that was not deployed until the 1950s.
  • Between 1954 and 1957, a first group of 37 families from various Mennonite colonies in Paraguay established Tres Palmas colony, 25 km northeast of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Soon, a second colony was established five km away from Tres Palmas by a group of 25 conservative families from Menno Colony in Paraguay. The settlers from Paraguay were experienced and well prepared to practice agriculture in a subtropical climate. In 1959, the total Mennonite population in Bolivia was 189.
  • In 1963, new settlements were founded where Mennonites from Paraguay and Canada lived together.
  • In 1967, Mennonites from Mexico and from their daughter colonies in Belize began to settle in the Santa Cruz Department. Las Piedras colony, founded 1968, was the first colony founded exclusively by Mennonites from Canada. Most settlers in Bolivia were traditional Mennonites who wanted to separate themselves more from "the world". Altogether there were about 17,500 Mennonites living in 16 colonies in Bolivia by 1986, of whom nearly 15,000 were Old Colony Mennonites and 2,500 Bergthal or Sommerfeld Mennonites.
  • In 1995, there were a total of 25 Mennonite colonies in Bolivia with a total population of 28,567. The most populous ones were Riva Palacios (5,488), Swift Current (2,602), Nueva Esperanza (2,455), Valle Esperanza (2,214) and Santa Rita (1,748).
  • In 2002, there were 40 Mennonite colonies with a population of about 38,000 people.
  • The total population was estimated at 60,000 in 2010.[8]

White Bolivians[edit | edit source]

  • White Bolivians or European Bolivians are Bolivian people whose ancestry lies within the continent of Europe, most notably Spain and Germany, and to a lesser extent, Italy and Croatia.
  • Bolivian people of European ancestry mostly descend from people who arrived over the centuries from Spain, beginning five hundred years ago.
  • European Bolivians are a minority ethnic group in Bolivia, accounting for 5% of the country's population.
  • An additional 68% of the population is mestizo, having mixed European and indigenous ancestry.[9]

Emigration[edit | edit source]

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.png One option is to look for records about the ancestor in the country of destination, the country they immigrated into. See links to immigration records for major destination countries below.

Bolivian Americans[edit | edit source]

  • Bolivians compose the third smallest Hispanic group in the United States, with a 2010 Census population of 99,210.
  • The highest concentration resides in the Washington Metropolitan Area', which accounts for 38% of the total Bolivian population in the US. Additional areas of concentration include the New York City borough of Queens, Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Los Angeles and Providence, Rhode Island.
  • Bolivian immigration into the United States occurred in two significant phases.
  • The first phase occurred during and subsequent to the 1952 National Revolution (between 1952 and the latter 1960s). Most of these immigrants consisted of middle- to upper-middle income occupational professionals or political dissidents, and identify with Bolivia's White or Criollo (descendants from Europeans born in Bolivia) society.
  • The second notable phase of Bolivian immigration (between 1980 and 1988) was a result of Bolivia's fiscal policies in the 1970s which gave way to the hyperinflation throughout most of the 1980s. Most of these immigrants consisted of lower-income Mestizo (European/Amerindian mix) and Indigenous Bolivians obtaining work posts as service and manual laborers.

8Most of the Bolivian American population is of Quechua descent, with the majority of them hailing from the 'Valle Alto region of Cochabamba, from towns like Tarata, Arbieto, Cliza, Punata, and Tolata, with most of them living in the DC area.

  • Bolivians have settled throughout the United States, mainly in Washington D.C., California and Maryland; there are also large groups of Bolivian immigrants in Texas, New York City, New Jersey, South Florida, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Chicago. The number of Bolivians in the U.S. in 2006 was estimated at 82,322. Most Bolivian immigrants are high school or college graduates.[10]

Bolivians in Brazil[edit | edit source]

  • Bolivians in Brazil are individuals of full, partial, or predominantly Bolivian ancestry, or a Bolivian-born person residing in Brazil.
  • The governments of Bolivia and Brazil have begun to develop an agreement to regularize the situation of more than 200,000 undocumented Bolivian immigrants in Brazil.
  • Nowadays, the Bolivians constitute the biggest group of foreigners living in the country, with an estimated 350,000 Bolivian nationals currently living in Brazil.
  • Bolivians started coming to Brazil in small numbers during the 1950s, with current levels of immigration beginning in the 1980s.
  • About 40% of Bolivians live in the city of São Paulo, around 10% of Bolivians in the city of Rio de Janeiro, and the border cities of Corumbá (Mato Grosso do Sul) and Guajará-Mirim (Roraima) receive about 5% of the total each.[11]

Bolivians in the United Kingdom[edit | edit source]

  • According to the United Kingdom Census 2001, 1,143 people were born in Bolivia, making it the 140th most common birthplace for British residents.The 2011 census recorded 3,618 Bolivian-born residents in England, 24 in Wales, 113 in Scotland and 10 in Northern Ireland. In 2007, community leaders surveyed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that there might have been as many as 25,000 Bolivian-born people in the UK.
  • According to an IOM mapping exercise published in 2007, the overwhelming majority of all Bolivians in the United Kingdom reside in London. According to the report, 'boroughs with high concentrations of Bolivians included Southwark (mainly in Elephant and Castle, Old Kent Road and Peckham Rye), Haringey (mainly in Seven Sisters and Finsbury Park), Camden, Lewisham and Lambeth (mainly in Vauxhall and Brixton)'.[9] More affluent Bolivians were reported as tending to gravitate towards North London, while the less affluent lived in Southeast London.Outside of London, other concentrations were identified in Newcastle and Edinburgh.[12]

Bolivians in Uruguay[edit | edit source]

  • Many Bolivian-born people live in Uruguay, for a number of reasons. Both countries share the Spanish language; their historical origins are common (part of the Viceroyalty of the River Plate, Spanish Empire); there is no need for special migration documents, and circulation is relatively easy.
  • Uruguay is a very small, quiet country, with wide beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. Some well-off Bolivians choose Uruguay as their holiday destination, a trend that is expected to grow in the near future.
  • Other Bolivians of a lower social condition come to Uruguay in search of job opportunities, as part of a big inflow of Latin Americans into Uruguay.
  • According to the 2011 Uruguayan census, 377 people who declared Bolivia as their country of birth.[13]

Jewish Emigration[edit | edit source]

  • During the 1940s, 2,200 Jews emigrated from Bolivia. In the 1990s the community had about 700 members, the Jewish population of Bolivia has remained steady since then.
  • The Jewish community in Bolivia decreased gradually and lacks youth, as they end high school, go to universities abroad, especially in Argentina, Brazil, the United States and Israel, and do not return. [6]*Bolivia - Emigration and immigration
  • Bolivia - Emigration and immigration - Indexes

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Immigration to Bolivia", in Wikipedia,, accessed 16 May 2021.
  2. "Afro-Brazilians", in Wikipedia,, accessed 17 May 2021.
  3. "Immigration to Bolivia", in Wikipedia,, accessed 17 May 2021.
  4. "Croatian Bolivians", in Wikipedia,, accessed 20 May 2021.
  5. "Japanese in Bolivia", in Wikipedia,, accessed 16 May 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "History of the jews in Bolivia", in Wikipedia,, accessed 17 May 2021.
  7. "German Bolivians", in Wikipedia,, accessed 16 May 2021.
  8. "Mennonites in Bolivia", in Wikipedia, accessed 16 May 2021.
  9. "White Bolivians", in Wikipedia,, accessed 16 May 2021.
  10. "Bolivian Americans", in Wikipedia,, accessed 17 May 2021.
  11. Bolivians in Brazil", in Wikipedia,, accessed 17 May 2021.
  12. "Bolivians in the United Kingdom", in Wikipedia,, accessed 16 May 2021.
  13. "Bolivians in Uruguay", in Wikipedia,, accessed 16 May 2021.