“Soy el rico Potosí, del mundo soy el tesoro; soy el rey de los montes, envidia soy de los reyes”
“I am rich Potosi; the treasure of the world; the king of mountains; the envy of kings.”
Inscribed on the official shield of the city.
The entrance to the former mint of Spanish coins
Awesome chest. With the turn of the correct key the 12 locks would unlatch. I thought this was only the stuff of movies!
Located at over 4000m above sea level, Potosi had us gasping for breath and chewing on gobs of coca leaves in an attempt to ease the symptoms of high altitude. This city has an incredible history; at one point in the late 16th Century rivaling London, Paris and Seville for size and prosperity. This was due to the huge amounts of almost pure silver being extracted from Cerro Rico. In Spanish there is a saying "Vale un Potosi" ("It is worth a Potosi") for something really valuable. For Spain Potosi was a fountain of wealth, for the indigenous and slaves it was a guarantee of a short and hard life. It is a fascinating UNESCO city, though its past, present and by all accounts its future are under-toned with tragedy and sadness.
Lunch: chicken and 3 starches
The beautiful streets of Potosi with a backdrop of Cerro Rico, riddled with tunnels from centuries of silver mining.
We were uncertain whether or not we wanted to visit the working mines; where entire families work under atrocious conditions and too often perish, either in the mine itself or from ailments associated with it. We opted to join the tour for its initial visit to the Miner Market, where one could buy gifts for the miners such as coca leaves, dynamite ($3.50 a stick) and alcohol (96%!!!), and to visit the place where the Ore is initially processed (I would call it a factory but it does not qualify, it barely held on to the roof). We entered the mine for a brief scout around, met with some miners and left in a hurry when we felt 5 explosions that literally had the earth falling from the walls around us. The miner said that it was an adjacent shaft about 50 meters below us. Enough said. Spent the rest of the tour sitting on the side of the hill watching the comings and goings of the miners pushing the ore carts and poking around the discarded pilings for pyrite.
Big bags of coca leaves
14 year old boy working his family´s silver mine
El Tio the god of the mines. Miners make offerings to El Tio every Friday for safety and prosperity.
Dale happily fossicking for fool´s gold.