The sad history of human and mother earth exploitation over the centuries within Cerro Rico includes the loss of an estimated 8 million slave lives (major African slave workforce, until the Spanish concluded they died in this freezing area too quickly to be profitable), wars, and inestimable pollution. Quechua, Inca, Spanish, and governments took turns using others to exploit the hill.
Around 500 years of mining producing incalcuable wealth, including the main support of the Spanish empire for many decades. For over 60 years, miner cooperatives have run the mines, and health conditions including lung disease (silicosis) have not markedly improved. The life span of the miner is 35-45 y.o., and as many as 20 hrs straight can be spent in the mines. Those I spoke with say it is more like 8-10 hrs in 2 shifts. They chew coca constantly, smoke, and drink 190 proof so-called whiskey that tastes like acid. I never cease to be amazed what the working person will endure to support their families.
Potosi developed as the support town for the mining, refining, shipping, and making of coins/silver manufacturing. as well as housing and other needed infrastructure. For those wanting more history of Potosi, check out:
Check out Linda Xiao graphic pictures and description of what it is like down in the mines, and more history of the mines.
I enjoyed several days in Potosi with my French friends, including:
For more and better photos of Potosi:
I had planned to go to Sucre next, and to a remote village near there. However, a 7 day water supply problem and disease outbreaks discouraged me. So, goodbye to my French buddies, and off to La Paz to join Devin for awhile!