A country of statistical extremes, landlocked Bolivia is the highest and most isolated country in South America. It has the largest proportion of indigenous people, who make up around two-thirds of the population. Though rich in mineral and energy resources, Bolivia is one of South America's poorest countries. Wealthy urban elites, who are mostly of Spanish ancestry, have traditionally dominated political and economic life, whereas most Bolivians are low-income subsistence farmers, miners, small traders or artisans.
The country has the second-largest reserves of natural gas in South America, but there have been long-running tensions over the exploitation and export of the resource. Indigenous groups say the country should not relinquish control of the reserves, which they see as Bolivia's sole remaining natural resource. Before President Evo Morales came to power, the political fallout from the issue had helped to topple two presidents and had led to calls for regional autonomy, including in prosperous, oil-producing Santa Cruz. In May 2006, President Morales delighted his supporters but sent shockwaves through the energy world when he put the energy industry under state control. Bolivia underwent further radical change in January 2009, when voters backed President Morales' project for a new constitution that aimed to give greater rights to the indigenous majority population.
In the 1980s, Bolivia experienced a deep economic recession. The tin market collapsed, with the loss of about 21,000 jobs, inflation was rampant and the national currency was in severe crisis. While strict austerity measures, the introduction of a new currency and tax reform succeeded in curbing inflation and restoring foreign confidence, these policies also widened the already huge wealth gap and generated great social unrest. Bolivia is one of the world's largest producers of coca, the raw material for cocaine. A crop-eradication programme, though easing the flow of conditional US aid, has incensed many of Bolivia's poorest farmers for whom coca is often the only source of income. Bolivia is a beautiful country with stunning mountains, deserts, and rainforests. The people of Bolivia are friendly, kind, and welcoming. Roughly twice the size of Texas, Bolivia is home to both portions of the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest. Currently, Bolivia is a social democracy that is generally stable but questions about corruption have lingered.
Bolivia has a population of around 11 million. The capital is La Paz.
US Men: 76
US Women: 79
Per Capita GDP (Goods and Services Per Person):
United States $55,800
World Average $15,800
Percentage With Access To Improved Water Sources:
United States 99%
World Average 91%
Percentage With Internet Access:
United States 87%
World Average 39%
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In Santa Cruz, which is where our trips to Bolivia happen, the summers are long, hot, oppressive, wet, and mostly cloudy. The winters are short, comfortable, humid, and partly cloudy. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 60°F to 87°F and is rarely below 49°F or above 94°F.
You will likely eat a lot of chicken and rice in Bolivia but there are a ton of distinct Bolivia dishes to speak of.
Bolivia is 76% Catholic, 17% Protestant, 5% non-religious.
Do's & Don'ts
Make a concerted effort to speak some Spanish. Tip traveling mariachi bands if you stop to listen while they play for you. Learn the points of reference used by locals: east is arriba (where the sun rises) toward the central mountains west is abajo (where the sun sets) towards the Pacific Ocean north is al lago (to the lake) south is a la montana (to the mountains) Some Bolivians are more time relaxed; showing up late is commonplace.
Don't run for cover if you hear a noise like gunfire. Firecrackers are a favorite toy of Bolivian kids. Don't be offended if someone refers to you by the color of your skin or your body type. A Bolivian who calls you gordo (fat), flaco (thin), or chelle (light-skinned), negra (dark-skinned) means no insult. Don't encourage begging by giving money to school-age kids who should be in school instead of on the streets.
Bolivia is on UTC. It does not participate in Daylight Savings Time, so Bolivia is either the same as EST or 1 hour ahead.
Hindi Words & Phrases
Below are quick reference to some common words and phrases:
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