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Bolivia Is the highest and the most isolated of all South American countries. It is a landlocked country lying in the widest stretch of the Andean mountains. It has hills and valleys into the Amazon and Parana basins. It has a variety of climatic zones ranging from snow capped peaks, to vast low land jungles. The population is made up at least 50% of pure blood Indians, that keep their culture and traditions.
Bolivia's territory is a land of contrasts. You can see treeless landscapes like if life never existed before. Bolivia has abundant diversity of raw metals. Mining is the major industry from Bolivia. Bolivia is one of the most peaceful, secure and inviting countries of South America.

From about 1500 BC, Aymara-speaking Indians, from the mountains from Peru, moved across into the Bolivian Andes and occupied the Altiplano. Around the first centuries AD, the powerful highland culture of Tiahuanaco developed with its religious and political center on the southern shores of Lake Titicaca. Tiahuanaco together with its political counterpart of Huari in the Ayacucho Valley in Peru, developed into a well-organized prosperous and ambitious society. Its influence extended north as far as Ecuador and south to Chile. You can see this in Tiahuanaco relics in museums.

Before the Spanish came to America the Bolivian Altiplano had been incorporated into the Inca Empire as the southern province of Kollasuyu. The Indians, who now live around the Lake Titicaca and speak Quechua, first moved there under an Inca policy of resettling groups of their tribes in the newly conquered colonies, and imposing their language on them.

When the Spaniards defeated the Inca Empire, they called what is Bolivia now, Alto Peru, first under control of Diego de Almagro, then under Gonzalo Pizarro, brother of Francisco Pizarro who was in Peru. They organized an administrative unit called Charcas in 1538, probably attracted by the silver mines, which had been worked in Inca times. Later Pedro de Anzures founded the township of La Plata, later changed to Chuquisaca and finally to Sucre. This town became the administrative, religious and educational center of the eastern Spanish territories.

In 1545 silver was discovered in Potosi, becoming famous for its abundance and quality. The settlement grew fast and became one of the largest cities in America. In 1548, Alonso De Mendoza on the route from Potosi to the pacific coast founded La Paz. In 1574 the Spaniards founded Cochabamba, which became the granary of Bolivia, and Tarija, which housed the fierce, but now extinct, Chiriguano Indians.

In 1781, a futile attempt was made to expel the Spaniards. Some 30 years later, in May 1809, Chuquisaca became the center of the movement for independence. Advance doctrines radiated throughout Spanish America.

In 1824 after 15 years of war, the liberation of Peru from Spanish domination was finally won in the battles of Junin and Ayacucho. However in the Alto Peru (Bolivia) the royalist general Pedro Antonio de Olañeta, still opposed the liberating forces. In 1825 Simon Bolivar sent Jose Antonio de Sucre with an expeditionary force to Alto Peru, defeating Olañeta at the battle of Tumusla. On August 6, 1825, the independence was proclaimed and Alto Peru became the Republic of Bolivia. Bolivar became the first president and Sucre the second.

In 1828, Andres de Santa Cruz took power and influenced by romantic attachments to ancient Inca ideals, formed a confederacy with Peru constituted in 1836. This triggered a protest by Chile whose army defeated Santa Cruz in 1839, breaking the confederacy, and bringing Bolivia into a political chaos. In 1841 Bolivia had three presidents simultaneously. Since then a pattern of military power took Bolivia. Only in 164 years of republican life, 189 governments have run the country.

By the mid-19th century, the discovery of guano and nitrates in the Atacama region changed what has been a barren and uninhabited desert, into an area of booming economic importance. As Bolivia was unable to populate the coast and exploit the deposits by itself, it made contracts mostly with Chilean companies.

In 1879 when the Bolivian government imposed a tax on the minerals, Chile invaded the whole of the coast and defeated Bolivia and Peru in the Pacific war between 1879 and 1883. Chile took 350 km of coastline, leaving Bolivia landlocked with no outlet to the sea.
Next lost was in 1903 when Brazil annexed some 100,000 sq km of the Acre region. The reason this time was rubber. Brazil enjoyed the rubber boom in the 1950s. Bolivia tried to participate of this boom in its own territory of the Acre, but Brazil claiming sovereignty sent its army and took it the land.
Bolivia was dragged again in another war between 1932 and 1935, this time with Paraguay for control of the Chaco region. This area had not attraction either for Bolivia or Paraguay, but when foreign oil companies from North America and Europe speculated that the place was rich in oil, Standard Oil siding for Bolivia and Shell for Paraguay prompted a war. Although Bolivia being a largest country had more soldiers, the fighting conditions in the Chaco favored the Paraguayans. After heavy losses in both sides, even worse in the Paraguay side, they repulsed the Bolivians. When they signed a peace of settlement in 1938, Bolivia lost again another 225,000-sq. km of its territory. The conflict had enormous negative repercussions in the country.

Spanish narration

Bolivia: En construccion.

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Created on March 23, 1999

Updated on April 1, 2001

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