Croatian diaspora in Bolivia
It is estimated that there are about 5,000 Croats and their descendants in Bolivia, comprising mostly the third and the fourth generation of Dalmatian Croats, (on Facebook page 'Dobar dan Santa Cruz' there is the information that there are 10,000 Croats living in Bolivia) mostly originating from the island of Brač who came to Bolivia between the 1915 and 1931. From the very beginning they integrated into the Bolivian society and entered into mixed marriages with the locals.
The first Croatian settlers arrived in Bolivia in the late 19th century. According to hearsay a first Croat settler in Bolivia was Ivan Ivanović, from Sutivan, from the island of Brač, who had crossed the Strait of Magellan by ship, landed in the Chilean port of Antofagasta, and in 1885 settled in the neighboring Bolivia. He was followed by other Brač residents and people from the island of Hvar and a few from Hrvatsko primorje. So at the beginning of 20th century there are small settlements of our immigtants in Orur, Cochabamaba, La Paz, Santa Cruz, Sucre and others. First Croat settlers were working on the roads and doing railroad construction work, and also in the mines. Some also cleared forests and did farming work. As they were hard-working they became better-off and later they went into trade, construction, hospitality industry.
According to the available data in Bolivia, on the eve of World War I there were about 1,500 Croats. After World War II, a group of political refugees moved there, along with several Croatian priests. Croats, being economically strong ethnic group, contributed a lot to the development of Bolivia as their own country. However, they still have a feeling of belonging to the Croatian nation.
The oldest Croatian Association in Bolivia 'Sociedad Croata de socorros mutuos de Oruro'is based in Oruro and its members meet in more than a hundred years old building of the club. In Oruro Croats set up the first fire brigade in this country.
The Croatian community in the town of Cochabamba has its own Croatian house and there is an association “Hrvatsko društvo“. Also, a Croatian cemetery opened in Cochabamba in 1934.
The Croatian community in the town of Santa Cruz de la Sierra organizes traditional annual meeting of its members and in 2018 it founded Bolivian-Croatian culture center, the place where Croatian descendants can meet, learn the Croatian language and attend various courses. The association “Hrvatska zajednica” was established in 2017. There are no classes offered in the Croatian language, although there is a Bolivian-Croatian school run by the Croatian family Franulić, and attended by about 800 local students.
There is no Croatian radio – or a TV program. Likewise, there is no newspaper published in Croatian.
In 2012 the Facebook page 'Dobar dan Santa Cruz', at the address:http://www.facebook.com/DobarDanSantaCruz was launched. Its aim is to unite the Croatian community of the town and to foster pride in Croatian heritage and culture. Many people showed interest in this page.
In the diocese of Santa Cruz della Siera, in Capuchin Mission Minero Fr Ivica Vrbić takes an active part in the local community. Dominican Missionary Karlo Čavar has been living for fifty years in this region. Croats and their descendants gather at traditional mass services.