The national culture is an amalgam of Hispanic and pre-Hispanic elements with three cultural traditions: (1) Quechua/ Aymara (roughly 34 percent and 23 percent of the population, respectively), centered in the high-altitude plateau and valley mountain regions (highlands) and corresponding to the two (Quechua- and Aymara-speaking) traditions that existed before the Spanish conquest of the sixteenth century; this "Andean" tradition extends from southern Colombia to northern Chile and Argentina and roughly corresponds to the boundaries of the Incan Empire, whose capital was Cuzco, Peru; (2) Spanish or Hispanic (roughly 87 percent of the population), derived from the cultural heritage of the conquering Spaniards; and (3) several dozen small Amazonian ethnic groups in the eastern lowlands. At 424,162 square miles (1,098,581 square kilometers), Bolivia is the fifth largest country in South America.
Bordering Peru and Chile to the west, Argentina and Paraguay to the south, and Brazil to the north and east, it is divided into nine political–administrative units called departments.
There are three major geographic–ecological landscapes: the high and cold plateau ( altiplano ) between the eastern and western Andean mountain chains (Cordillera Oriental and Cordillera Occidental) at 12,000 to 14,000 feet (4,000 to 4,500 meters) above sea level, the intermontane valleys ( valles ) in the easternmost part of the Cordillera Oriental at an average of 8,500 feet (2,600 meters) elevation, and the vast lowlands (Oriente) beyond the eastern flanks of the Cordillera Oriental.
The sparsely populated Oriente—swamp, grasslands, plains, and tropical and subtropical forest—constitutes over 70 percent of the country. Historically, Bolivia has been predominantly rural, with most of its Quechua- and Aymara-speaking peasants living in highland communities.
The new republic had a senate and a house of representatives. First, it was famous for its silver mines in the city of Potosí.The mines provided great riches for Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.Later Bolivia was one of the first providers of tin for the world market.The 1992 census confirmed that 80 percent of the people live in the highlands and noted increasing rural to urban migration.In 1992, the population was 6,420,792, with 58 percent in urban areas (settlements of two thousand or more persons), an increase of 16 percent over the 1976 census.highlands (Altiplano and valleys) or the lowlands (Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando).