Bolivia, landlocked South American republic, bordered by Brazil in the north and east, Paraguay in the southeast, Argentina in the south, and Peru and Chile in the west.
Land and climate
The 3 distinct regions of Bolivia are the Oriente (east), the Montañas (center), and the Altiplano (west). The Oriente is a low alluvial plain containing tropical forest and extensive swamps. The Montañas consists of the Cordillera Oriental mountain range, whose eastern slopes shelter fertile valleys. It is Bolivia's largest cultivated area with peaks over 21,000 ft (6,400 m) high and valleys that fall to 6,000 ft (1,929 m). The windswept Altiplano, a broad plain between 2 high Andes ranges, is the most populous area and the highest inhabited area in the world, most of it over 12,000 ft (3,658 m). It is home to more than half the population. Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian border is the highest navigable lake in the world (12,507 ft/3,812 m). The climate varies from the steady cold of the Altiplano to jungle heat in the Oriente.
More than 40% of Bolivians are Native Americans, with another one-third being mestizo (Native American and Caucasian) and about 15% Caucasians of Spanish descent. Spain's colonial policy prevented Native Americans from learning Spanish, so less than 40% of the population speak it. Most Caucasians speak at least 1 Native American language. About 95% of the people are Roman Catholic. Sucre is Bolivia's capital, but La Paz is its major city.
About two-fifths of Bolivians work subsistence farms and wheat and rice must be imported to meet basic needs. The animals of the highlands (llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas) furnish high-grade wool, a leading source of income in certain areas. Bolivia is leading world producer of tin and antimony. Oil has been a major export since 1967. Despite its mineral wealth Bolivia remains a comparatively poor country.
Before being conquered by Gonzalo and Hernando Pizarro (1538), Bolivia was home to an advanced Ayamará civilization around Lake Titicaca that was subjugated by the Incas. The Spanish exploited Bolivia's wealth with forced Indian labor. The country won its independence in 1825 after long campaigns led by José de Sucre, but over the next 100 years Bolivia lost much valuable territory in wars with Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay. The Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR), a pro-miner organization, came to power in 1952 but was overthrown by the military in 1964. In 1980, after nearly 20 years of unstable military regimes, a civilian government came to power under President Hernán Siles Zuazo. Zuazo resigned in 1985 and was succeeded by Paz Estenssoro. Jaime Paz Zamora was elected president in 1989 and left his seat to Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 1993. The latter was succeeded by Hugo Bánzer Suárez in 1997.