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South America, Bolivia

Bolivia, republic in central South America, bounded on the north and east by Brazil, on the southeast by Paraguay, on the south by Argentina, and on the west by Chile and Peru. Bolivia and Paraguay are the only South American countries without direct access to the sea. The maximum length of Bolivia from north to south is about 1,530 km (about 950 mi); its maximum breadth is about 1,450 km (about 900 mi). Its area is 1,098,581 sq km (424,164 sq mi), making it fifth in size (after Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and Colombia) of South American countries. The constitutional capital of Bolivia is Sucre; La Paz is the largest city and administrative capital.

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 4 km (2.5 m) above sea level. To the east of the mountains, vast grassy plains give way to lowland tropical rain forests. Most of the people live in the Andes Mountains, which occupy a third of the country. Since the 1950s, however, the sparsely settled, eastern lowland plains have gradually become more populous because of significant discoveries of oil and gas.

The great majority of the people in Bolivia are Native American or part Native American, and ancient traditions are still practiced, particularly in rural areas. From the 16th to the early 19th century, Bolivia was a colony of Spain. In 1952 Bolivia underwent a political revolution that brought about major changes throughout 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 Native Americans, enrolled remote villages in national organizations, and extended commercial networks. The government also redistributed land, breaking up the large estates established during colonial times and giving small plots of land to Native American farmers.

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