Wikijunior:South America/Bolivia

Flag of Bolivia
A map of Bolivia
Central La Paz, the capital of Bolivia

Bolivia is a landlocked country in the center of South America. It is bordered by Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay and Argentina to the south, and Chile and Peru to the west. Its capital is La Paz. At 11,740 ft (3,580 m) above sea level, it is the highest capital in the world. Bolivia is named after Simon Bolivar, one of the greatest South American generals.

National Symbols


Famous Places


Geography of Bolivia


The west of Bolivia is covered by the Andes mountain range. The Andes is divided in two branches. The Altiplano is a large plateau which is in the west of the country between the two branches of the Altiplano. The west also contains the largest salt flats on earth, Salar de Uyuni. There is also the largest lake commercially available for transport, Lake Titicaca, which was historically important to the indigenous people and now is an important tourist location. The highest peak in Bolivia is also a volcano, and its name is Nevado del Sajama.

History of Bolivia


Divided into three distinct periods: pre-Columbian, colonial, and republican.

There are six places in Bolivia declared World Heritage for their contributions to world history. Two of them specifically acknowledge indigenous or native cultures: Tiwanaku, which was an archaeological site particularly well known for pre-Columbian pottery and also Chiquitos which the Spanish Conquistadors found after looking at Indian doors and is well known for music.



In 1531 Spanish conquistadors under Francisco Pizarro entered Bolivia. Within two years they controlled the territory known as Alto Peru. In 1544 silver was discovered at Potosi. Native and African slaves were forced to work the silver mines and enriched Spain for over the next 200 years. The slaves were encouraged to chew on coca leaves which became a part of the native culture.

In 1548 La Paz was founded as Nuestra Señora de La Paz (Our Lady of Peace). It became the capital in 1898. Bolivia won its independence from Spain in 1825. The first elected president was General Simon Bolivar, who had led the Bolivian forces in defeating the Spanish. The following year Antonio José de Sucre drew up Bolivia's constitution, and the country received its name. In 1828 Sucre was forced to resign, and since then Bolivia has been ruled for the most part by a succession of military dictators.

For over 350 years Bolivia's western boundary extended to the Pacific Ocean. But following a war with Chile in 1883, Bolivia lost its Pacific coastal area thereby becoming landlocked. In subsequent wars with Brazil (1903) and Paraguay (1935), Bolivia lost land in the east including rubber plantations, but came just short of losing important oil and natural gas resources.

In the 1890s mining corporations interested in Bolivia's tin began to control the country. In 1952 the government was taken over by a revolutionary party, the MNR, which seized the mines, taking them over to be owned by the government. The MNR also divided the estates of the wealthy landowners into smaller farms for their former tenants and peasants, who previously worked the land but didn't own it.

In 1964 the army took over the government of Bolivia. Since then Bolivia has had a string of generals as presidents, most of them in office for less than a full term.

In 1982 Siles Zuazo became Bolivia's first democratic, civilian president in over 40 years. Currently the President is Evo Morales, elected 2006.

Bolivia's territorial losses

People of Bolivia


There are nearly ten million people in Bolivia. Half to nearly two-thirds of people in Bolivia belong to indigenous cultures, which is relatively unusual for a South American country. Over two hundred different languages are spoken by at least as many native nations. Many of those are close to becoming extinct. The largest indigenous group is the Quechua with two and a half million people. There are also the Aymara, and two smaller groups known as the Guaraní and the Chiquitano. There are also many Europeans, Asians and people from other ethnic groups.

If you were a Bolivian man, you could expect to live until you were 62 and if you were a Bolivian woman, you could expect to live to be 68. You would also be expected to give birth to three children, but many children attend school for a year or less.

Much of Bolivia is in poverty, and many people work on farms, while cities continue to grow due to former peasant trying to find a livelihood there. Eighty-seven percent of Bolivians can read and write.

The three official languages are Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara.

There are at least four large cities which are growing rapidly : La Paz, El Alto, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.

What types of things are exported?


Soy products, zinc, natural gas, and tin.

What is school like?


What is the food like?


It is the most well known food in all Spanish speaking countries. Delicacies include fruits from the forest with honey. The food in the north is spicy and full of flavor. Saltenas, a juicy chicken or beef empanada is one of the most famous worldwide foods.

What music is popular?


What sports are popular?


Soccer is the most popular sport in the country. Volleyball, Tennis, Horseback riding, Automobile Racing, and Basketball are also popular.