Why does Bolivia have two capital cities? When the Spanish colonized the Americas, they divided the continent into viceroyalties – large territories, each governed by a viceroy. Bolivia was initially a part of what was known as the Viceroyalty of Alto Peru which included what are now Peru, Bolivia, and parts of Chile.
In 1825, when Bolivia gained its independence, it was founded as a Republic in the city of Sucre, in the central department (state) of Chuquisaca, and Sucre was established as Bolivia’s capital city.
During this time, silver and tin mining were the country’s largest industries. Tin and silver were being mined in Potosí, west of Sucre. A great number of silver mine owners lived in Sucre and many of the tin mining families lived in La Paz, near which other tin mines were also being run. Silver had already been mined for several centuries. Tin was a newer industry and 70 years later, had surpassed silver mining in terms of income generation for the country.
Bolivia experienced a lot of upheaval during its first decades as a sovereign nation. In 1899 Bolivia’s Liberal Party and Conservative Party clashed in a struggle for political power. Sucre’s silver owners and large landowners supported the conservatives. Tin mine owners threw their support behind the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party overthrew the Conservative party and immediately put in a bid to move the country’s seat of government to La Paz.
In the end, an agreement was reached. La Paz became the seat of the Bolivian government’s executive and legislative branches and the judicial branch remained in Sucre. That’s why today Sucre is often called Bolivia’s constitutional capital and La Paz is called the administrative (and sometimes the de facto) capital.