The area of South America that is now known as Bolivia before the arrival of the Spanish was ruled by three major empires. By 600 BC the first of these Andean empires had emerged on the Altiplano or High Plane that lies between two great mountain ranges. The Tiahuanacan Empire was centered around the south eastern side of Lake Titicaca and reached its peak around 1000 only to mysteriously disappear around 1200. This lead to the rise of the Aymara kingdom which ruled until they could no longer hold off the expansion of the great Quechua empire that came to be known as the Incas.
The arrival of the Spanish in 1532 found the Inca Empire in a weak condition because of the death of the Inca (emperor) Huayna Capac. His two sons were at the time battling for succession which had caused much internal struggle. Although Atahualpa defeated his brother he had not yet consolidated his power and he greatly underestimated the strength of the Spanish. They eventually conquered the Inca empire taking the capital of Cuzco located in what now is the country of Peru. In 1825 the country of Bolivia was granted its independence by the freedom fighter Simón Bolivar from whom the country gets its name. Since then there have been lots of ups and downs in the country being plagued with coups and much political unrest. Even today there are strikes on a regular basis and conflicts between cultural groups.
Bolivia is maybe one of South America’s most diverse countries geographically. Located in the center of the continent it is one of only two land locked countries there and is roughly the size of Texas and California combined. It covers a land area of over 1,000,000 km2 and has a population of almost 9 million. The country is divided into three main geographical areas: the mountain and high plain areas in the west, the temperate valleys of the yungas in the center of the country and the tropical lowlands in the east. The climate also varies in these areas from cold dry weather in the west to hot wet conditions in the east. Bolivia is known as the Andean nation with some of the highest mountain peaks and an average elevation higher than any other country in South America.
Bolivia is as diverse culturally as it is geographically. It is divided into three main language groups: Spanish, Quechua and Ayamara but those can be narrowed down to two main groups of people which are called the Collas pronounced Coyas and Cambas. The Collas are the people that live in the higher elevations while the Cambas live in the jungle regions of Bolivia. Both harbor much animosity towards each other and are many times the source of the political conflicts that exist.