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Coca leaves, Andes Mountains, political revolution, Sucre, La Paz

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Bolivia, republic in central South America, nicknamed the Rooftop of the World because of its high elevation in the Andes Mountains. Bolivia has a landscape of snow-topped mountain peaks and broad, windswept plateaus. To the east of the mountains, vast grassy plains give way to lowland tropical rain forests. The official capital of Bolivia is Sucre; La Paz is the administrative capital and seat of government. At an altitude of about 3,600 m (11,900 ft), La Paz is the highest capital in the world.

Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America. Although Native Americans make up the majority of the country's population, a small Spanish elite has traditionally dominated the political and economic life of the country and held most of the wealth. The minerals of the Andes were long the source of this wealth, but petroleum and natural gas overtook them in the late 1900s. Coca leaves, the source of the drug cocaine, also became an important export in the second half of the 1900s.

Most of Bolivia's people live on a plateau between two ranges of the Andes Mountains, which occupy a third of the country. Since the 1950s, however, the sparsely settled, eastern lowland plains have gradually become more heavily populated, in part because of discoveries of significant deposits of oil and natural gas there. In addition, the region's fertile farmland was opened to settlement. Santa Cruz, the region's center of trade and commerce, surpassed La Paz to become Bolivia's largest city in the early 2000s.

From the 16th to the early 19th century, Bolivia was a colony of Spain. The country became independent in 1825. In 1952 Bolivia underwent a political revolution that brought far-reaching changes to the country. The leaders of that revolution introduced programs designed to provide greater political, economic, and social opportunities for Native Americans. The government extended the vote to all Native Americans, promoted education in rural villages, and redistributed land, breaking up the large estates established during colonial times and giving small plots of land to Native American farmers. But the reforms failed to solve Bolivia's economic problems. Subsequent regimes have tried to privatize large segments of the economy, and Bolivia's social, political, and economic situation remains unstable.


For younger readers

Parker, Edward. Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia. Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1998. For readers in grades 3 to 6.

Pateman, Robert. Bolivia. Marshall Cavendish, 1995. For readers in grades 4 to 7.

Schimmel, Karen. Bolivia. Chelsea House, 1990. For readers in grades 4 to 7.


Ghinsberg, Yossi.Trans. Yael Politis and Stanley Young. Back from Tuichi. Random House, 1994. A harrowing traveler's account of being lost for three weeks in the Bolivian jungle.

Harris, Richard L. Death of a Revolutionary: Che Guevara's Last Mission. Rev. ed. Norton, 2000. An insightful and detailed account of the life and death of a 1960s icon and his effort to revolutionize Bolivia.

Klein, Herbert. Bolivia: The Evolution of a Multi-Ethnic Society. Oxford University Press, 1991. A study of integration and diversity in modern Bolivia.

Malloy, James M., and Eduardo A. Gamarra. Revolution and Reaction: Bolivia, 1964 - 1992. 2nd ed. Transaction, 1992. A political history of a turbulent period.

Morales, Waltraud Q. Bolivia: Land of Struggle. Westview, 1992. General history.

Villegas, Henry.Ed. Mary-Alice Waters. Pombo: A Man of Che's Guerrilla: With Che Guevara in Bolivia 1966-68. Pathfinder, 1997. Diary kept during guerrilla leader Che Guevara's failed attempt to create a revolution in Bolivia.


Microsoft Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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