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Bolivia

Ancient Bolivia   The people of Bolivia were civilized for hundreds of yearsBolivia before the Spaniards conquered the area. The city of Tiahuanaco was founded in what is now Bolivia about 400 BC. At its peak, it had a population of about 40-50,000 and its people created great works of architecture. They also worked in pottery, silver, copper and obsidian.

Colonial Bolivia  The Spaniards founded cities in Bolivia at Chuquisacac (1538), La Paz (1548), Cochabamba (1571) and Oruro (1606). In 1545 silver was discovered at Potosi and the Spanish used forced labor to mine the silver. Many of the Indians who were forced to work in mines died there. Many more died of European diseases.

Not surprisingly the Bolivian Indians were resentful and in 1780 their anger boiled over into rebellion. The Indians believed they could revamp the old Inca Empire and replace the unjust and oppressive Spanish rule. However, the Indians were disunited and they failed to capture La Paz. By 1782 the Great Rebellion in Bolivia was crushed.

Independent Bolivia   More and more regions of South America became independent until on 6 August 1825 Bolivia finally joined them and became independent from Spain. The new nation was named Bolivia in honor of the Simon Bolivar the hero of the independence movement.

However, the new republic of Bolivia faced an economic depression and many silver mines were abandoned. Bolivia became a backward and impoverished state.

The first president of Bolivia was General Sucre. He was followed by Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz who was president from 1829 to 1839. In 1836, he tried to unite Bolivia with Peru but the Chileans felt threatened and they fought the War of the Confederation in 1836-39 to break up the union.

In 1879 Bolivia increased taxation on Chilean owned nitrate companies. The result was a war called the War of the Pacific. In 1884 Bolivia lost the strip of coast she controlled and became a landlocked country.

20th Century Bolivia   Then in 1899 Bolivian Liberals rose in rebellion. The so-called Federal Revolution ended with the Liberals seizing power. Then in 1900 rubber tappers in the Acre region rebelled demanding independence. They were supported by the Brazilians and in 1903 the Bolivian government decided to sell Acre to Brazil.

In 1920 the Conservatives staged a coup in Bolivia and regained power. In the 1920s mining in Bolivia flourished but after the Wall Street Crash in 1929 the Bolivian economy suffered severely.

In July 1932 border disputes led to the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay. The war went very badly for Bolivia and many of her men died in the conflict. The war ended in 1935 but in 1936 army officers staged a coup. They introduced a regime they called military socialism and they nationalized the holdings of the American Standard Oil Company.

During this time, radical ideas were spreading in Bolivia and the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionaria or MNR was formed. In 1943 the MNR formed an alliance with some army officers and they staged a coup. Gualberto Villaroel led the new government. However, Villaroel was overthrown by a revolution in 1946 and he was hanged outside the presidential palace. Bolivia was then ruled by a coalition of traditional parties until 1951 when the army took control.

In 1982 Hernando Siles Zuazo became president of Bolivia.  However, during his reign Bolivia suffered major economic problems including raging inflation and he stepped down in 1985. His successor Paz Estenssoro managed to curb inflation but in 1989 he was replaced by Paz Zamora. Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada replaced him in 1993. He undertook a privatization campaign and under him the Bolivian economy grew.

21st Century Bolivia   However, the Bolivian economy flagged from 1999 but it began to grow again in 2003. Then in 2005 left-wing Evo Morales was elected president with plans to nationalize industry. Morales was re-elected president of Bolivia in 2009.

Today Bolivia remains a poor country but it is rich in resources. Perhaps its greatest resource is tourism and it has beautiful scenery and wildlife. Despite the recession of 2009 the economy of Bolivia recovered and today its growing steadily. Bolivia is becoming more prosperous and there is reason to be hopeful about its future. Today the population of Bolivia is 10.9 million.

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