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Bolivia, officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia, is a landlocked country in central South America. It is bordered by Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay and Argentina to the south, Chile by the southwest, and Peru by the west. Prior to European colonization, the Andean region of Bolivia was a part of the Inca Empire, the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century. During most of the Spanish colonial period, this territory was called Upper Peru and was under the administration of the Vice royalty of Peru, which included most of Spain's South American colonies. After declaring independence in 1809, 16 years of war followed before the establishment of the Republic, named for Simon Bolivar, on 6 August 1825.
Bolivia is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America. Its main economic activities include agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, and manufacturing goods such as textiles, clothing, refined metals, and refined petroleum. Bolivia is a very wealthy in minerals, especially tin. Following a disastrous economic crisis during the early 1980s, reforms spurred private investment, stimulated economic growth, and cut poverty rates in the 1990s. The period 2003-05 was characterized by political instability, racial tensions, and violent protests against plans -- subsequently abandoned -- to export Bolivia's newly discovered natural gas reserves to large northern hemisphere markets. After higher prices for mining and hydrocarbons exports produced a fiscal surplus in 2008, the global recession in 2009 slowed growth. Nevertheless, Bolivia recorded the highest growth rate in South America that year. During 2010 an increase in world commodity prices resulted in the biggest trade surplus in history. However, a lack of foreign investment in the key sectors of mining and hydrocarbons and higher food prices pose challenges for the Bolivian economy.
The Bolivian population, estimated at 10 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Mestizos, Europeans and Africans. The main language is spoken is Spanish, although the Aymara and Quechua languages are also common and all three, as well as 34 other indigenous languages, are official. The large number of different cultures within Bolivia has contributed greatly to a wide diversity in fields such as art, cuisine, literature and music.
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