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Impressions of Bolivia

Of all South American countries, Bolivia is perhaps the most authentic one. It became independent from Spain in 1825, more or less together with neighbouring Argentina, Chile, Perú and Portugal's colony of Brazil. But that does not mean that they always pulled on the same side of the string afterwards. The Bolivians know all about that, their history is a history of territorial loss! In 1879 Bolivia teamed up with Perú against Chile in a 'Salpeter War' over access to the nitrate deposits in what is now Northern Chile. Chile won, annexed the Easter Island from Perú and the Pacific Ocean provinces from Bolivia, devastatingly turning the latter into a landlocked country; in 1862 and 1883 the Argentinian brothers moved their border quite a bit to the North from Salta at the expense of Bolivia; and in 1903 Brazil considered that it could not stay behind and it too needed to do something, after all it required more Amazonian territory to respond to booming world demand for rubber.

Less territory, but two capitals: yes, the 'Pluri-ethnic Republic of Bolivia' is a complicated country. Initially Sucre was the capital, based on the proximity of the Potosí silver mines and on Conservative political rule. But La Paz grew as a city, had access to the country's tin mines and was more Liberal-minded. Conservatives and Liberals got into a fight, Liberals won the struggle.... and La Paz became the capital in a compromise leaving the seat of Judicial power in Sucre, as a matter of consolation.

Bolivia is a wonderful country to explore. So far, my Bolivia report is limited to La Paz and the North of the country, and it fills me with impatience and eagerness to think of the so many places of major interest I still have on my bucket list: the Salar de Uyuni, the silver mines of Potosí, the cities of Sucre and Santa Cruz, the 17th century Jesuit missions near the border with Paraguay and the Amazon region. One day the bucket list will become part of the drop-down menu you are about to consult.

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