Bolivia facts for kids
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Plurinational State of Bolivia
Motto: "La Unión es la Fuerza" (Spanish)
"Unity is Strength"
Anthem: "Himno Nacional de Bolivia" (Spanish)
Location of Bolivia (dark green)
in South America (grey)
|Capital||Sucre (constitutional and judicial)
La Paz (executive and legislative)
|Largest city||Santa Cruz de la Sierra
|Government||Unitary presidential constitutional republic|
|Legislature||Plurinational Legislative Assembly|
|Chamber of Senators|
|Chamber of Deputies|
|6 August 1825|
|21 July 1847|
• Admitted to the United Nations
|14 November 1945|
• Current constitution
|7 February 2009|
|1,098,581 km2 (424,164 sq mi) (27th)|
• Water (%)
• 2019 estimate
|10.4/km2 (26.9/sq mi) (224th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2019 estimate|
|$89.018 billion (88th)|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2019 estimate|
|$40.687 billion (90th)|
• Per capita
|Gini (2019)||▼ 41.6
|HDI (2019)|| 0.718
high · 107th
|Time zone||UTC−4 (BOT)|
|ISO 3166 code||BO|
Bolivia (officially called Plurinational State of Bolivia) is a country in South America. It is land locked by Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Peru, and Chile. Evo Morales became the president of Bolivia in January 2006. The population of Bolivia is 10.67 million (2013).
Bolivia is named after Simón Bolívar. The main languages are Spanish and Quechua, but there are other languages too.
Before Spanish colonization, the Andean region of Bolivia was part of the Inca Empire, while the northern and eastern lowlands were inhabited by independent tribes. Spanish conquistadors arriving from Cusco and Asunción took control of the region in the 16th century. During the Spanish colonial period Bolivia was administered by the Real Audiencia of Charcas. Spain built its empire in large part upon the silver that was extracted from Bolivia's mines. After the first call for independence in 1809, 16 years of war followed before the establishment of the Republic, named for Simón Bolívar. Over the course of the 19th and early 20th century Bolivia lost control of several peripheral territories to neighboring countries including the seizure of its coastline by Chile in 1879. Bolivia remained relatively politically stable until 1971, when Hugo Banzer led a CIA-supported coup d'état which replaced the socialist government of Juan José Torres with a military dictatorship headed by Banzer; Torres was murdered in Buenos Aires, Argentina by a right-wing death squad in 1976. Banzer's regime cracked down on leftist and socialist opposition and other forms of dissent, resulting in the torture and deaths of a number of Bolivian citizens. Banzer was ousted in 1978 and later returned as the democratically elected president of Bolivia from 1997 to 2001.
Bolivia is located in the central zone of South America, between 57°26'–69°38'W and 9°38'–22°53'S. With an area of 1,098,581 square kilometres (424,164 sq mi), Bolivia is the world's 28th-largest country, and the fifth largest country in South America, extending from the Central Andes through part of the Gran Chaco, Pantanal and as far as the Amazon. The geographic center of the country is the so-called Puerto Estrella ("Star Port") on the Río Grande, in Ñuflo de Chávez Province, Santa Cruz Department.
The geography of the country exhibits a great variety of terrain and climates. Bolivia has a high level of biodiversity, considered one of the greatest in the world, as well as several ecoregions with ecological sub-units such as the Altiplano, tropical rainforests (including Amazon rainforest), dry valleys, and the Chiquitania, which is a tropical savanna. These areas feature enormous variations in altitude, from an elevation of 6,542 metres (21,463 ft) above sea level in Nevado Sajama to nearly 70 metres (230 ft) along the Paraguay River. Although a country of great geographic diversity, Bolivia has remained a landlocked country since the War of the Pacific. Puerto Suárez, San Matías and Puerto Quijarro are located in the Bolivian Pantanal.
Bolivia can be divided into three physiographic regions:
- The Andean region in the southwest spans 28% of the national territory, extending over 307,603 square kilometres (118,766 sq mi). This area is located above 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) altitude and is located between two big Andean chains, the Cordillera Occidental ("Western Range") and the Cordillera Central ("Central Range"), with some of the highest spots in the Americas such as the Nevado Sajama, with an altitude of 6,542 metres (21,463 ft), and the Illimani, at 6,462 metres (21,201 ft). Also located in the Cordillera Central is Lake Titicaca, the highest commercially navigable lake in the world and the largest lake in South America; the lake is shared with Peru. Also in this region are the Altiplano and the Salar de Uyuni, which is the largest salt flat in the world and an important source of lithium.
- The Sub-Andean region in the center and south of the country is an intermediate region between the Altiplano and the eastern llanos (plain); this region comprises 13% of the territory of Bolivia, extending over 142,815 km2 (55,141 sq mi), and encompassing the Bolivian valleys and the Yungas region. It is distinguished by its farming activities and its temperate climate.
- The Llanos region in the northeast comprises 59% of the territory, with 648,163 km2 (250,257 sq mi). It is located to the north of the Cordillera Central and extends from the Andean foothills to the Paraguay River. It is a region of flat land and small plateaus, all covered by extensive rain forests containing enormous biodiversity. The region is below 400 metres (1,300 ft) above sea level.
Bolivia has three drainage basins:
- The first is the Amazon Basin, also called the North Basin (724,000 km2 (280,000 sq mi)/66% of the territory). The rivers of this basin generally have big meanders which form lakes such as Murillo Lake in Pando Department. The main Bolivian tributary to the Amazon basin is the Mamoré River, with a length of 2,000 km (1,200 mi) running north to the confluence with the Beni River, 1,113 km (692 mi) in length and the second most important river of the country. The Beni River, along with the Madeira River, forms the main tributary of the Amazon River. From east to west, the basin is formed by other important rivers, such as the Madre de Dios River, the Orthon River, the Abuna River, the Yata River, and the Guaporé River. The most important lakes are Rogaguado Lake, Rogagua Lake, and Jara Lake.
- The second is the Río de la Plata Basin, also called the South Basin (229,500 km2 (88,600 sq mi)/21% of the territory). The tributaries in this basin are in general less abundant than the ones forming the Amazon Basin. The Rio de la Plata Basin is mainly formed by the Paraguay River, Pilcomayo River, and Bermejo River. The most important lakes are Uberaba Lake and Mandioré Lake, both located in the Bolivian marshland.
- The third basin is the Central Basin, which is an endorheic basin (145,081 square kilometres (56,016 sq mi)/13% of the territory). The Altiplano has large numbers of lakes and rivers that do not run into any ocean because they are enclosed by the Andean mountains. The most important river is the Desaguadero River, with a length of 436 km (271 mi), the longest river of the Altiplano; it begins in Lake Titicaca and then runs in a southeast direction to Poopó Lake. The basin is then formed by Lake Titicaca, Lake Poopó, the Desaguadero River, and great salt flats, including the Salar de Uyuni and Coipasa Lake.
The geology of Bolivia comprises a variety of different lithologies as well as tectonic and sedimentary environments. On a synoptic scale, geological units coincide with topographical units. Most elementally, the country is divided into a mountainous western area affected by the subduction processes in the Pacific and an eastern lowlands of stable platforms and shields.
The climate of Bolivia varies drastically from one eco-region to the other, from the tropics in the eastern llanos to a polar climate in the western Andes. The summers are warm, humid in the east and dry in the west, with rains that often modify temperatures, humidity, winds, atmospheric pressure and evaporation, yielding very different climates in different areas. When the climatological phenomenon known as El Niño takes place, it causes great alterations in the weather. Winters are very cold in the west, and it snows in the mountain ranges, while in the western regions, windy days are more common. The autumn is dry in the non-tropical regions.
- Llanos. A humid tropical climate with an average temperature of 25 °C (77 °F). The wind coming from the Amazon rainforest causes significant rainfall. In May, there is low precipitation because of dry winds, and most days have clear skies. Even so, winds from the south, called surazos, can bring cooler temperatures lasting several days.
- Altiplano. Desert-Polar climates, with strong and cold winds. The average temperature ranges from 15 to 20 °C. At night, temperatures descend drastically to slightly above 0 °C, while during the day, the weather is dry and solar radiation is high. Ground frosts occur every month, and snow is frequent.
- Valleys and Yungas. Temperate climate. The humid northeastern winds are pushed to the mountains, making this region very humid and rainy. Temperatures are cooler at higher elevations. Snow occurs at altitudes of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft).
- Chaco. Subtropical semi-arid climate. Rainy and humid in January and the rest of the year, with warm days and cold nights.
The population of Bolivia is approximately 10,907,778 people. The ethnic composition of the country is like the following:
Bolivia in 2016 boasted the highest proportional rate of financial reserves of any nation in the world, with Bolivia's rainy day fund totaling some US$15 billion or nearly two-thirds of total annual GDP, up from a fifth of GDP in 2005. Even the IMF was impressed by Morales' fiscal prudence.
A major blow to the Bolivian economy came with a drastic fall in the price of tin during the early 1980s, which impacted one of Bolivia's main sources of income and one of its major mining industries. Since 1985, the government of Bolivia has implemented a far-reaching program of macroeconomic stabilization and structural reform aimed at maintaining price stability, creating conditions for sustained growth, and alleviating scarcity.
Bolivia has the second largest natural gas reserves in South America. The government has a long-term sales agreement to sell natural gas to Brazil through 2019.
The US Geological Service estimates that Bolivia has 5.4 million cubic tonnes of lithium, which represent 50%–70% of world reserves. However, to mine for it would involve disturbing the country's salt flats (called Salar de Uyuni), an important natural feature which boosts tourism in the region. The government does not want to destroy this unique natural landscape to meet the rising world demand for lithium. On the other hand, sustainable extraction of lithium is attempted by the government. This project is carried out by the public company "Recursos Evaporíticos" subsidiary of COMIBOL.
The income from tourism has become increasingly important. Bolivia's tourist industry has placed an emphasis on attracting ethnic diversity. The most visited places include Nevado Sajama, Torotoro National Park, Madidi National Park, Tiwanaku and the city of La Paz.
The best known of the various festivals found in the country is the "Carnaval de Oruro", which was among the first 19 "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity", as proclaimed by UNESCO in May 2001.
Bolivia's Yungas Road was called the "world's most dangerous road" by the Inter-American Development Bank, called (El Camino de la Muerte) in Spanish. The northern portion of the road, much of it unpaved and without guardrails, was cut into the Cordillera Oriental Mountain in the 1930s. The fall from the narrow 12 feet (3.7 m) path is as much as 2,000 feet (610 m) in some places and due to the humid weather from the Amazon there are often poor conditions like mudslides and falling rocks. Each year over 25,000 bikers cycle along the 40 miles (64 km) road. In 2018, an Israeli woman was killed by a falling rock while cycling on the road.
The Apolo road goes deep into La Paz. Roads in this area were originally built to allow access to mines located near Charazani. Other noteworthy roads run to Coroico, Sorata, the Zongo Valley (Illimani mountain), and along the Cochabamba highway (carretera). According to researchers with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bolivia's road network was still underdeveloped as of 2014. In lowland areas of Bolivia there is less than 2,000 kilometres (2,000,000 m) of paved road. There have been some recent investments; animal husbandry has expanded in Guayaramerín, which might be due to a new road connecting Guayaramerín with Trinidad.
The General Directorate of Civil Aeronautics (Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil—DGAC) formerly part of the FAB, administers a civil aeronautics school called the National Institute of Civil Aeronautics (Instituto Nacional de Aeronáutica Civil—INAC), and two commercial air transport services TAM and TAB.
TAM – Transporte Aéreo Militar (the Bolivian Military Airline) was an airline based in La Paz, Bolivia. It was the civilian wing of the 'Fuerza Aérea Boliviana' (the Bolivian Air Force), operating passenger services to remote towns and communities in the North and Northeast of Bolivia. TAM (a.k.a. TAM Group 71) has been a part of the FAB since 1945. The airline company has suspended its operations since 23 September 2019.
Boliviana de Aviación, often referred to as simply BoA, is the flag carrier airline of Bolivia and is wholly owned by the country's government.
A private airline serving regional destinations is Línea Aérea Amaszonas, with services including some international destinations.
Although a civil transport airline, TAB – Transportes Aéreos Bolivianos, was created as a subsidiary company of the FAB in 1977. It is subordinate to the Air Transport Management (Gerencia de Transportes Aéreos) and is headed by an FAB general. TAB, a charter heavy cargo airline, links Bolivia with most countries of the Western Hemisphere; its inventory includes a fleet of Hercules C130 aircraft. TAB is headquartered adjacent to El Alto International Airport. TAB flies to Miami and Houston, with a stop in Panama.
The three largest, and main international airports in Bolivia are El Alto International Airport in La Paz, Viru Viru International Airport in Santa Cruz, and Jorge Wilstermann International Airport in Cochabamba. There are regional airports in other cities that connect to these three hubs.
Bolivia possesses an extensive but aged rail system, all in 1000 mm gauge, consisting of two disconnected networks.
Bolivia is divided into nine departments. The departments are divided into 112 provinces. The provinces are divided into 339 municipalities and into native community lands.
|Territorial division of Bolivia|
|Population||Surface (km²)||Density||Capital city|
|La Paz||BO-L||2.756.989||133.985||19,9||La Paz|
|Santa Cruz||BO-S||2.626.697||370.621||7,1||Santa Cruz de la Sierra|
|Source: Demographic Projections 2008, Bolivian National Demographic Institute. The departmental densitiy has been calculated with the population of 2006.|
Bolivia's variable altitudes, ranging from 90–6,542 metres (295–21,463 ft) above sea level, allow for a vast biologic diversity. The territory of Bolivia comprises four types of biomes, 32 ecological regions, and 199 ecosystems. Within this geographic area there are several natural parks and reserves such as the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, the Madidi National Park, the Tunari National Park, the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve, and the Kaa-Iya del Gran Chaco National Park and Integrated Management Natural Area, among others.
Bolivia boasts over 17,000 species of seed plants, including over 1,200 species of fern, 1,500 species of marchantiophyta and moss, and at least 800 species of fungus. In addition, there are more than 3,000 species of medicinal plants. Bolivia is considered the place of origin for such species as peppers and chili peppers, peanuts, the common beans, yucca, and several species of palm. Bolivia also naturally produces over 4,000 kinds of potatoes.
Bolivia has more than 2,900 animal species, including 398 mammals, over 1,400 birds (about 14% of birds known in the world, being the sixth most diverse country in terms of bird species), 204 amphibians, 277 reptiles, and 635 fish, all fresh water fish as Bolivia is a landlocked country. In addition, there are more than 3,000 types of butterfly, and more than 60 domestic animals.
Bolivian culture has many Inca, Aymara and other native influences in religion, music and clothing. There is a big festival in Oruro, which is called "El carnaval de Oruro". People in Bolivia like playing football, and football, which is often played in the street. Zoos are also very popular, but they do not have much money.
The Cantuta (often spelled kantuta or qantuta) (Cantua buxifolia or Fuchsia buxifolia) is a flower found in the Yungas, and is the national flower of Bolivia along with the patujú (Heliconia rostrata) found in the tropical regions of Bolivia.
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