No Enclave — Exploring Bolivian Los Angeles

No Enclave

As of 2015, an estimated 48.4% of Angelenos were “Hispanic of any race.” The majority of Hispanic and Latino Angelenos are of Mexican heritage but the region is also well known for being home to the largest populations of Salvadorans and Guatemalans outside of their home countries. Often overlooked are the region’s smaller Latino populations, the subject of this series of No Enclave posts written on the occasion of National Hispanic Heritage Month.




Among the first people to settle what’s now Bolivia were the Aymara, who arrived at least 2,000 years ago. The Andean region of Bolivia was historically part of the Inca Empire, whilst the lowlands in the north and east were inhabited by smaller indigenous nations. The Spanish Conquest began in the 16th century and during the Spanish Colonial period, the region was known as Alto Perú. Independence from Spain was declared in 1809, and sixteen years of revolution followed before the establishment of the Republic of Peru, named after Simón Bolívar. The current president, Evo Morales, was elected in 2005. A former cocalero and democratic socialist Aymara, Morales is the first indigenous president of Bolivia.

Evo Morales

Bolivia is a multi-ethnic country of roughly 10 million people. There are 36 recognized indigenous languages spoken there, the most common being Guarani, Aymara, and Quechua. In South America, only Peru has a larger Native population but Bolivia has the larger percentage, with 62% of Bolivians identifying as indigenous. 23% of Bolivians identify as mestizo, 14% as white, and 1% as of another race.

Bolivian immigration into the United States occurred primarily in two distinct phases. The first phase occurred during and subsequent to the 1952 National Revolution, when mostly middle-class and mostly white Bolivian professionals and dissidents moved to the US. In the 1980s, Bolivian immigrants were much more likely to be mestizos and Native peoples, generally manual laborers coming to the US in search economic opportunity.

As of 2010, there were 99,210 self-identified Bolivian-Americans living in the US. At that time, 13,351 lived in California, making it the second largest population after Virginia. There were 7,068 Bolivians living in the Los Angeles area, making it the third largest community of Bolivian-Americans after those of the New York City and Washington, DC metropolitan areas. Several Bolivian-Angelenos are widely recognized for their contributions.

Composer and conductor Jaime Mendoza-Nava was born in La Paz in 1925. He studied jaime-mendoza-navaat The Juilliard SchoolMadrid Royal Conservatory, the Sorbonne, and with Nadia Boulanger before finding work at Walt Disney Studios. His film scores include Five Minutes to Love (1963), The Hostage (1967), Fever Heat (1968), The Stewardesses (1969), The Wild Scene (1970), Brother, Cry for Me (1970), The Brotherhood of Satan (1971), Blood Legacy (1971), The Female Bunch (1971), The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972), Grave of the Vampire (1972), Bootleggers (1974), Smoke in the Wind (1975), Aloha, Bobby and Rose (1975), Creature from Black Lake (1976), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976), The Shadow of Chikara (1977), Grayeagle (1977) The Boys in Company C (1978), The Norseman (1978), The Evictors (1979), The Legend of Alfred Packer (1980), and Mausoleum (1983). He died in 2005.

Jaime Escalante, right, and the actor who portrayed him in the 1988 hit movie “Stand and Deliver,” Edward James Olmos. (Image: Warner Brothers, via Associated Press)

Educator Jaime Alfonso Escalante Gutierrez was a Bolivian-American teacher born in 1930 to Aymara parents. He taught calculus at East Los Angeles‘s Garfield High School from 1974-1991, which inspired the 1988 film Stand and Deliver, in which he

Photo of Portrait Artist Juan Bastos (Image: T. H. Parry)

was portrayed by actor Edward James Olmos. Hector Ponce painted a large mural in Westlake titled Los Angeles Teachers, depicting Escalante and Olmos, in 1997. In 1993, asteroid 5095 Escalante was named after him. He died in 2010.

Juan Bastos is an American portrait artist who was born in 1958, in Caracas,Venezuela to Bolivian parents.  His formal training began at age thirteen under Yolanda de Aguirre. He moved to Washington, DC in 1979 and in 1986 received his Masters of Fine Arts from Towson University in Maryland. In 1996 he moved to Los Angeles where he’s painted for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Los Angeles Jewish Home, and between 2002 and 2004, he painted eight portraits of deans and donor for the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.


Raquel Welch was born Jo Raquel Tejada in Chicago in 1940. Her father was from La Paz and her mother English-American, and after moving to California, they divorced. Welch won a scholarship and studied drama at San Diego State College. In 1959, Welch played the title role in Hemet‘s production of The Ramona Pageant. She moved to Los Angeles in 1963 and appeared in several films before her head-turning appearance in an animal skin bikini for One Million B.C. (1966) brought her international recognition as a pin-up and sex symbol.


This Salteñas are the best [Beba’s in Anaheim] (Image: grover “grove” e.)
Bolivian cuisine is primarily drawn from Aymara and Spanish traditions, with additional culinary influences from Arab, Argentine, French, German, GreekItalian, and other immigrants. Indigenous ingredients include beans, maize, potatoesquinoa, ducks, guinea pigs, and llamas. Products introduced by the Spanish include rice, wheat, cows, chickens, horses, and pigs. Pre-Columbian dishes and condiments include achairo, ch’arki, chuño, humita, llajwa, locro, and silpancho. Popular post-colonial creations include chorizo, marraqueta, pique macho, and salteñas. Popular beverages include chichachuflay, fritanga, singani, and yungueño. Locally, there are only a few Bolivian restaurants, Bebas Restaurant (with locations in Van Nuys and Anaheim) and a coffee and arepa bar, Café Bolívar, in Santa Monica.

The counter and bar seating area [Café Bolivar] (Image: Tim “BlackDragon” C.)

Despite the presence of nearly 8,000 Bolivians in the Los Angeles area, I wasn’t able to find any Bolivian-Angeleno community groups, non-profits, or other organizations — not even a Facebook page. Anyway, the office of the Consulado General de Bolivia en Los Angeles is located, like so many, on Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown.

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRWWhich Way, LA?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubiand Twitter.

Art Prints


One thought on “No Enclave — Exploring Bolivian Los Angeles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s