Bolivia is a landlocked country in western-central South America, formally known as the Plurinational State of Bolivia. Brazil borders it on the north and east, Paraguay on the southeast, Argentina on the south, Chile on the southwest, and Peru on the northwest. One-third of the nation is covered by the Andean mountain range, with El Alto, the country’s biggest city and economic hub, situated on the Altiplano. Bolivia is one of only two landlocked nations outside of Afro-Eurasia (the other being Paraguay). Bolivia is the Americas’ biggest landlocked nation.
Bolivia’s Andean area was a part of the Inca Empire prior to Spanish invasion, but the northern and eastern plains were populated by autonomous tribes. In the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors from Cuzco and Asunción gained control of the area. Bolivia was governed by the Royal Audiencia of Charcas during the Spanish colonial era. Spain’s empire was founded in large part on the silver mined from Bolivia’s mines.
Following the initial declaration of independence in 1809, 16 years of conflict ensued until the creation of the Republic on 6 August 1825, named for Simón Bolvar. Bolivia has experienced periods of political and economic turmoil since independence, including the loss of many peripheral areas to neighbors, notably Acre and portions of the Gran Chaco. Since Chile annexed its Pacific coast territory after the War of the Pacific (1879–84), it has been landlocked, although agreements with surrounding nations have given it indirect access to the Pacific and Atlantic seas.
The estimated 11 million-strong population is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Mestizos, Europeans, Asians, and Africans. The division of race and socioeconomic classes that resulted from Spanish colonization has persisted into the contemporary age. Although Spanish is the official and main language, 36 indigenous languages have been granted official status, the most widely spoken of which are Guarani, Aymara, and Quechua.
Modern Bolivia is a constitutional republic comprised of nine departments. Its topography ranges from the Andes highlands in the west to the Eastern Lowlands inside the Amazon Basin in the east. It is a developing nation, with a medium Human Development Index score and a 53 percent poverty rate. Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining are the primary economic activity, as is producing products such as textiles, apparel, refined metals, and refined petroleum. Bolivia is mineral-rich, particularly in tin.