Population. – The great extension of the rugged mountain and the marshy and unhealthy plain leaves limited spaces (plateaus and valley floor) for human settlements and for agricultural and manufacturing activities. The phenomenon of urbanization has a lower incidence than in other South American countries; the cities welcome just under half of the population, of which the majority live in the countryside or scattered in isolated nuclei.
La Paz (654,000 residents in 1976; 1,033,000 in 1986) rises at 3600 m above sea level and develops in a valley furrow and on slopes, with differences in height exceeding 1000 m between the lowest sector and the highest parts, where the poorest strata of the population reside. It is the seat of Congress, the Government and diplomatic representations, while the Supreme Court of Justice is based in Sucre (63,000 in 1976; 89,000 in 1986), the legal capital of the country. It rises at about 2800 m above sea level, and only recently has it come out of its isolation thanks to road and rail links, with a consequent increase in commercial and industrial activities (cement factories, oil refineries). For Bolivia religion and languages, please check ezinereligion.com.
The city that records the greatest development, thanks to the discovery of oil and natural gas and the transformation of agricultural and mining products, is Santa Cruz de la Sierra, which had 42,000 residents. in 1950, 125,000 in 1970, 458,000 in 1986; it is connected with Puerto Suarez-Corumbá. Among the other cities we should mention Potosí (117,000 residents), A mining center (silver, tin, copper) with mines at an altitude of over 4000 m, and Cochabamba (330,000 residents), Known as the granary of the Bolivia since ancient times. pre-Columbian, susceptible of further development due to its position on the Oruro-Santa Cruz axis.
Economic conditions. – The foundations of the Bolivian economy are agriculture and mining. The available data show a rather stationary agricultural production, excluding cassava, soybean, corn and a few other crops, with the consequent tendency to increase the country’s dependence on foreign food supplies. Moreover, Bolivia is sadly known for the production of coca, destined to be refined in Colombia and introduced into the international drug circuit. Breeding has undergone a strong expansion and has integrated the food shortages of the country: in a decade cattle and birds have more than doubled, sheep and goats have increased by about a third.
The mining activity, founded in the past on silver, has become very diversified: Bolivia places various precious products on the international market (gold, zinc, tin, copper, lead, antimony, tungsten). Oil feeds various refineries (Sucre, Cochabamba), as well as exports via the Camiri-Cochabamba-Arica pipeline; the production of natural gas has reached remarkable values in a few years (2.5 billion m3 in 1985) and offers better prospects than oil. However, mining production is disadvantaged due to the altitude of the mines, and the consequent difficulty of transport. For energy sources, in addition to oil and natural gas, Bolivia has some water (Río Beni and Río Negro) and thermal (Cochabamba) plants for an annual production of about 1600 million kWh, a further indication of the low content of life of the population and modest general economic development.
The handicraft, with prevalently female labor, is very widespread and mainly concerns the processing of wool, cotton, wood and other raw materials and the production of fabrics, clothing and hats (especially those used by Indian women, of rounded shape and wide brims).
The manufacturing industry has substantial nuclei in a few locations, including La Paz, where two thirds of the country’s manufacturing activities are located (food, textiles, construction, cigarettes, cement and oil), Cochabamba (food, oil refining, tobacco, leather), Oruro (metallurgy) and Santa Cruz (petrochemical). The income of Bolivia, which once came almost all from tin, whose production was in the hands of some powerful families and was controlled through companies with offices abroad, are currently framed in a partly different situation: mining production is has been differentiated, the agrarian reform has given positive results and the greater internal political stability gives hope for the future in a more promising economic and social development.
Communications. – The Bolivia, after Chile and Peru removed its access to the sea (Arica and Tacna), remained an internal and scarcely viable state. The communication difficulties, typical of the Andean countries, are aggravated by the continentality and the great altitude of the major centers of the country, not sufficiently compensated by the navigability of the Bolivian stretches of the river systems, due to the distance of the river ports from the sea and from the plateaus. To break the isolation, in the seventies Bolivia obtained from Brazil free port conditions on the Atlantic at Belém, the traffic terminal on the Amazon River, and at Santos, the railway terminal of the line to Mato Grosso; on the Madeira (Porto Velho) and Paraguay (Corumbá) rivers; from Argentina to Rosario sul Paraná and finally from Chile to Arica. The railway line from Paraguay to the Pacific has opened the Bolivian and Peruvian highlands to the sea: to it are added those with Argentina and the Pan-American road (2800 km). Air traffic has played a decisive role for internal and long-range connections and for the increase in tourist flow (150,000 visitors per year) attracted by the attractions of Lake Titicaca, by the archaeological remains (Tiahuanaco) and by the Andean peaks.