Overview: Tropical Bolivia
The eastern half of Bolivia is a vast and steamy tropic and home to more than 20 ethnic groups with distinct customs and traditions. The most prominent are the Guaraní, the Aymará, and the Quechua. The Quechua, who account for 34 percent of the population, tend to be the poorest and in greatest need of social services.
Living conditions are dire for most all Compassion-assisted children in tropical rural and urban Bolivia. The region is recovering from a deadly El Niño deluge in 2007, a rainy season that produced the worst flooding in 25 years, destroying homes, croplands and cattle.
This is Bolivia’s most sparsely populated region, yet it produces half of the country’s food. Its meandering rivers, grasslands and jungles contain 40 percent of the earth’s known wildlife. Toucans, piranhas, tree-hanging sloths, and pink dolphins have found haven here.
Tropical rural and urban Bolivia, also known as the eastern lowlands, is rich in natural mineral reserves, oil and gas deposits, fertile rice fields and thriving cattle ranches. The riches do not extend, however, to its poorest inhabitants.
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, with 1.8 million people, is the largest city in Bolivia. It is considered a major financial, fashion and modeling hub with residents priding themselves on winning the most Bolivian beauty pageant titles. In December, the warmest month of the year, fragrant winds carry the scent of the jungle into this tropic city. In August, the month for chaqueos (“slash and burn” forest-clearing techniques used in northern Bolivia), the same winds fill Santa Cruz with a smoke so thick that it causes respiratory problems for children.