Bolivia, officially referred to as the Plurinational State of Bolivia, is located in the heart of South America and it is one of the least developed countries in the region with an estimated population of ten million. The landlocked country that is equal in size to California and Texas combined is bordered by “Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay and Argentina to the south, and Chile and Peru to the west” (Pateman & Cramer, 2006, p.7).
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On the western part of the country, surrounded by two chains of the Andes, is a great plateau referred to as the Altiplano that has an altitude of twelve thousand feet and, interestingly, nearly half of the country’s population lives in this plateau, which contains the cities of Oruro, Potosí, and La Paz.
The city of Oruro, known for its various tourist attractions and having a population of about two hundred and thirty five thousand, is situated about centrally between La Paz and Sucre at just about three thousand seven hundred meters above sea level. La Paz, nicknamed the city that reaches to the clouds, is the legislative capital of the country and its location at an altitude of eleven thousand nine hundred feet makes it to be highest administrative city in the world.
The constitutional capital of Bolivia that is home of the Supreme Court is in Sucre, which is located in the south-central part of the country. I selected to give a report of the country because of its unique aforementioned characteristics and, more so, since it is the most Indian nation in South America, a trip to the country will enable us to have a first hand experience of its rich culture and traditional practices.
In my communication with a number of people from Bolivia via e-mail, I sought to find out why the country faces poverty in spite of the vast amount of natural resources that it has. The individuals provided me with several reasons why it is so.
First, most of them confessed to me that there is rampant corruption in their country. They said that the country has many corrupted officials who create artificial obstacles for trade and freedom with the intention of filling their own pockets. Second, the risky dirty business of drug trafficking that is practiced by many people has created a negative image of the country. As a result, this has driven away potential foreign investors.
Further, through the conversations, I realized that the country lacks market economy, lacks proper monetary/ fiscal policy, does not have a clear foreign policy, and there are no foreign direct investments to upstart its economy.
Bolivia has a vibrant culture that is a reflection of its past rich in rituals and traditional practices that developed in different distinct periods to result in the present-day culture of the country (Levy, 2001). Essentially, the country is composed of a small population of whites, a higher population of ‘mestizos’ (intermarriage of whites with indigenous Indians), a majority of native Indians, and a small population of blacks, and the national and official language in the country is Spanish (which differs from region to region) and other common languages spoken in the country include Quechua, Aymara, and other foreign languages.
The Catholic Church has historically exerted a huge influence in the country; thus, almost all people in the country adhere to the teachings of the church. As such, together with the different festivals and rituals held all through the year in all towns and communities in the country, all the people also celebrate Catholic festivals, such as Christmas and Easter.
Thus, the culture of the country differs from that of the U.S., which has English as the de facto official language, although a section of its population speaks Spanish and other indigenous languages, has various religions apart from Catholicism, and because it is a multicultural nation, the festivals in the country are seldom celebrated nationally.
Some common expressions of the Bolivian slang are “el chango – dude, referring to teenagers or younger guys in general, ¡¡yaaaaaaaa!! – general expression of happiness, ya pues/ya’ps – yes, of course! or right now!, ¡pucha! – word expressing frustration or exasperation for example, “I was trying to make the bus on time but, ¡pucha!, I just missed it!,” and el cojudo – the moron, the fool! for example, “He did a terrible job, el cojudo!” (Gerard, 2008).
The current price of a round-trip ticket for students leaving from the Washington DC area on June 1, 2011 and returning on June 30, 2011 starts from $ 1000. However, for United States citizens to enter Bolivia, they are required to have a U.S. passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of arrival, have a valid Visa certificate, and have been vaccinated for yellow fever.
The costs of hotels in Bolivia vary generally depending on the city one is in and the type of hotel one opts to lodge in. In general, at La Paz, spending the night in a hotel averages from $ 30-$ 55 per night, at Sucre, a hotel averages $ 35- $55 per night, at Potosi, a hotel averages $ 33 per night, and at Uyuni, a hotel averages $ 70-$120 per night.
There are no restrictions in lodging in the hotels as long as one identifies himself or herself that he or she is a foreigner who has come to visit the country. There are many traditional dishes in Bolivia with potato being the main staple food, and although the food is not usually spicy, a sauce “la llajwa” is most of the time served at most meals. Some popular food dishes include humitas, salteñas, sandwich de chola, and chicharron.
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The Bolivian currency is known as boliviano (BOB) and it is currently exchanging at the rate of 1 U.S. Dollar for 7.13 Bolivian boliviano. Bolivia is full of many tourist attraction sites that one can opt to visit. A notable site is the Andes Mountains, which crosses nearly half of the entire country.
The mountains are a major tourist attraction because they are the most elongated uncovered mountain ranges in the planet (Brain, 1999; Lougheed, 2006). The ruins that were left by the pre-Columbian civilizations are still present in the country and they also attract foreigners.
An example is the Temple of Kalasasaya, Yungas Road. Lastly, another tourist attraction is the Salar de Uyuni, which is the biggest dry lake on the planet. In terms of the use of technology, Bolivia is a techno-savvy society in which most of its population knows how to use cell phones and computers, especially after it was declared free of illiteracy under the UNESCO standards in 2008. In addition, the Bolivian National Academy of Sciences, established in 1960, has spearheaded different research and development exercises in the country to make the people to benefit from the use of technology.
Brain, Y. (1999). Bolivia: a climbing guide. Seattle, WA: Mountaineers.
Gerard, C. (2008, January). Bolivian Slang. Rhode Island School of Design. Retrieved from https://gringitas.wordpress.com/2008/01/07/bolivian-slang-from-gerards-cuaderno/
Pateman, R. & Cramer, M. (2006). Bolivia. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark.
Levy, M. L. (2001). Bolivia : [the background ; the issues ; the people]. Oxford: Oxfam.
Lougheed, V. (2006). Bolivia. Edison, N.J.: Hunter.