Useful Notes: Bolivia

Bolivia is a country is South America, the only one besides Paraguay to be landlocked. It was one of the former South American colonies that threw off Spanish rule in the 1810s. As a nod by Bolivians to Venezuelan leader Bolivar's efforts to help gain the country independence, they named the country for him.

Bolivia, despite being landlocked, has a navy. In the 19th century, the country had a small strip of land which connected it to the Pacific Ocean. However, it was poorly settled by Bolivians, and Chilean settlers moved in. When a large deposit of nitrates were discovered, Chile asserted that it had the rights to the minerals. The Bolivians and the Peruvians were enraged, and in 1879, the War of the Pacific occured. Bolivia has never accepted the loss of its coastline and maintains a navy as part of its hope of someday regaining it (It performs training maneuvers on Lake Titicaca). Bolivia also lost land to Brazil and Paraguay in the 1930s Chaco War.

Bolivia had the luck of having huge tin deposits, but that mainly benefited the Tin Barons who control the tin mines. The poorer classes did not take that well and forced a revolution in 1953. Since then, the government has switched between left and right extremes. In 2006, Evo Morales, an ethnic Aymara, was elected President. He nationalized the natural gas industry but angered the eastern part of the country with a large mestizo and white population [Bolivia is mostly Amerindian]. Morales was seen by people as their own version of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela; in fact, Morales are in good terms with the Venezuelan.

Its landlocked position had made it one of the poorest Latin American countries, but its natural gas and lithium reserves could be useful in jumpstarting the economy, and the government had plans to do this to benefit the majority of the country.

By the way, the capital according the constitution is Sucre, where the Supreme Court is located, but the government is seated on La Paz, which makes it de facto capital. That makes La Paz the highest capital in the world, at almost 12,000 feet above sea level.


The Bolivians are also actively encouraging indigenous cultures [Aymara, Quechua, etc]. As of 2009 they renamed their country the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

While most Bolivians watch Mexican, Argentine, Brazilian, and Colombian soap operas, they had an Soap Opera industry of their own, though it was mainly by independent producers.

There's also the whole coca leaf thing. The coca leaf has been historically a tradition of the Andean zone note , mainly because of its medicinal powers (the lack of air in the highlands provokes dizziness and other maladies, and chewing the coca leaf helps relieve them). As probably everyone knows, the coca leaves can be processed into cocaine, so the United States and other countries have tried to cut back or eliminate the growing of the leaves, which it's at odds with the local people. Before being elected, Morales earned fame for his opposition to the pressure the US imposed on the Bolivian government to forcefully reduce cultivation of coca.

The Bolivian flag
The red, yellow and green stripes symbolize the blood of Bolivia's freedom fighters, mineral wealth, and natural bounty, respectively. The state flag adds at the center the national coat-of-arms. It shows an oval cartouche depicting an allegorical Andean landscape, featuring an alpaca, a palm tree and a bundle of wheat in front of Mount Potosí, once one of the largest silver mines in the world. Behind the shield are a pair of crossed cannons (struggle for independence), Phrygian cap (liberty), fasces (law), and six Bolivian flags. The shield is topped by an Andean condor superimposed on a pair of crossed olive branches.