Bolivia is perhaps the most unfortunate country in South America. After it became independent in 1809, neighboring countries took over half of its territory. Present day Bolivia is struggling with high poverty rates and is considered one of the poorest countries in South America. Besides these struggles, Bolivia has now one of the fastest economic growth rates in the region and economic inequality is getting less. This is partly thanks to the first indigenous president Evo Morales. Politics aside, this country has one of the most iconic landscapes you can find in South America. And being one of the cheapest countries to visit as well, it is great for travelling on a budget.
The first dominant group who controlled a large amount of present-day Bolivian Andes, was the Tiwanaku culture. Although they starting their empire at around 1500 BC, real expansion began around 600 AD. Later, halfway of the 15th century, the Inca’s took control over this territory and it became a big part of their empire.
When the Spanish arrived beginning of the 16th century, it felt under the local government of Charcas. Mining soon had a major role as Potosí was founded in 1545. This city gained great wealth from the nearby mountain ‘Cerro Rico’. Even to the extent that this became the richest city in the world (and the biggest city in the New World). With Napoleon going on in Europe, they saw, like most of South America, a chance for independence. By several revolutions and wars they finally gained independence in 1825.
After independence Bolivia lost half of its territory up until the first half of the 20th century. This happened consecutively to the ‘War of the Pacific’ against Chile (1879-1883) by losing its sea access, later the region of Acre, famous for its rubber production, against Brazil (1903) and finally the bloody ‘Chaco War’ (1932-1935), which supposed to be rich in oil, to Paraguay.
As present day Bolivia might just be a mere reflection of what it could have been, it seems to climb further up from its poor economical state. Evo Morales won the 2005 elections and is thereby the first Bolivian indigenous leader. He started off prosperously by decreasing the income inequality, giving more power to the indigenous population and other social reforms. Now running for his third term (and striving, by law still not possible, for his fourth term), he gets more criticized throughout the country and his popularity is more divided. Also by the Aymara, his ethnic background. This is caused mostly by changing his focus from caring about the rights of indigenous people to protect his current position in power.