Landlocked Bolivia is the fifth-largest country in South America and is bordered by Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Paraguay. The republic is home to more than 9,000,000 inhabitants, almost two-thirds of whom live below the poverty line. Given the vast size of the country and its small number of inhabitants, Bolivia has the lowest population density in all of the Americas. This density ranges from less than one person per square kilometer in the southeastern plains to about ten per square kilometer in the central highlands. Bolivia has the highest proportion of indigenous people of any country in South America, with roughly two thirds of its population descended from native inhabitants.
Much of the land is uninhabitable as it boasts some of the most isolated, highest, coldest, warmest, windiest, driest and saltiest spots in the world. From the dramatic snow peaked mountains and bleak high altitude deserts of the Andes to the lush rainforests and enormous savannas of the Amazon basin, Bolivia embraces an incredible range of landscapes and climates. Not only does it have an astounding array of ecological zones, but also a huge ethnic and cultural diversity; there are 36 different indigenous groups in the country, which helps create an incredibly rich culture and ethnic traditions.
Although Bolivia is immensely wealthy in natural resources, the average per capita income is $4,500. When compared to a mean of $10,200 for other Latin American countries, Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. These conditions make it nearly impossible for the people of Bolivia to adequately plan for the future and basic necessities, such as health care and education, are often out of reach. Approximately 90% of children attend primary school but often for a year or less.
There are many reasons for Bolivia’s continued economic stagnation. The plummet in the price of tin in the early 1980′s is often cited as a major factor in the decline of the Bolivian economy. This was followed by another economic blow in the late 1980s and early 1990s when western countries withdrew much of their aid. Lastly, perhaps the most important factor contributing to Bolivia’s economic instability was the U.S. sponsored eradication of coca. The reduction of the coca crop caused a great loss of income to the Bolivian economy, especially to the country’s poorest classes.
Bolivia’s poverty can have a deterring affect on visitors to Latin America. However it is a wonderful place to visit as it is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural wonders and remains one of the safest places to travel in the Americas.