Potosi-Centuries of Exploitation

Cerro Rico, Potosi Mine

Cerro Rico, Potosi Mine

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:

http://www.boliviabella.com/history-of-potosi.html

Potosi

Potosi

The hill that has made centuries of history...Cerro Rico

The hill that has made centuries of history…Cerro Rico

Miners using rail cart to carry out ore.

Miners using rail cart to carry out ore.

Guy I met hand pounding hole for dynamite

Guy I met hand pounding hole for dynamite

Miner cooperative meeting.

Miner cooperative meeting.

God of mines, Tio, with many offerings for wealth and safety.  Clearly a potent character, eh?

God of mines, Tio, with many offerings for wealth and safety. Clearly a potent character, eh?

Ore refinery

Ore refinery

Equipment repairs

Equipment repairs

Refining in sludge pits

Refining in sludge pits

This product dries in these pits, and still needs further refining to separate metals (tin, lead, zinc, silver)

This product dries in these pits, and still needs further refining to separate metals (tin, lead, zinc, silver)

View of Potosi from Cerro Rico mines

View of Potosi from Cerro Rico mines

Check out Linda Xiao graphic pictures and description of what it is like down in the mines, and more history of the mines.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-xiao/the-mines-of-potosi-boliv_b_1349295.html

I enjoyed several days in Potosi with my French friends, including:

Parades!

Parades!

Lots of very cute kids!

Lots of very cute kids!

Street art

Street art

Always people watching

Always people watching

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Flower Lady

Flower Lady

Dancing and folkloric art

Dancing and folkloric art

image

image

image

 

My favorite market soup kitchen and cook/owner for 17 years!

My favorite market soup kitchen and cook/owner for 17 years!

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My chicken soup slurping buddy!

My chicken soup slurping buddy!

Argentina's favorite export to Bolivia--as many hippies as possible

Argentina’s favorite export to Bolivia–as many hippies as possible.  Jugglers at intersections.

Museums, including this one at the old mint

Museums, including this one at the old mint

Depiction of horse-drawn iron plate manufacturing machine

Depiction of horse-drawn iron plate manufacturing machine

Old machine used to make coins from sheets for Spanish empire

Old machine used to make coins from sheets for Spanish empire

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Sample of silver pots

Sample of silver pots

Church in old mint

Church in old mint

Mummies in church

Mummies in church

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Replica of Spanish ship transporting silver to empire

Replica of Spanish ship transporting silver to empire

Snow covered peak near Potosi.

Snow covered peak near Potosi.

For more and better photos of Potosi:

https://www.google.com/search?q=pictures+of+potosi&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=cVJnVb68AseWNufogYgL&ved=0CDIQ7Ak&biw=1024&bih=642

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!

 

 

One thought on “Potosi-Centuries of Exploitation

  1. Hi Allan:
    I’m loving your reports from your adventures. What a wonderful trip with people and events and cultures and ….. It feels like you are thriving on the traveling. Stay well, be safe, have fun, see amazing things, say ‘hello world’ for me!” hugs, michael

    Like

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