Potosi, the town where few people smile.
The towns economy is almost directly impacted by the ancient mountain mine that towers above the city. It serves as a constant reminder that it’s resources are almost deplenished.
This mountain has been mined since the 1600’s, making Potosi one of the wealthiest and most populated cities in the world back in the day, unbelievable right? Now, the top of the mountain has been shut down for safety. Today, the mountain is mined by multiple cooperatives (groups of miners). There is no structure, no rules, no regulations and no method other than dig. Basically, miners wake up everyday hoping the mountain doesn’t fall on them. If two tunnels happen to meet, the cooperatives wait each other out, until the other gives up their place.
Got a lesson on coca leaves and the politics behind it. Coca leaves have been chewed or used in tea for generations to combat altitude sickness, such as helping to breath by opening up the airways and also suppress appetite. Coca leaves and cocaine are not the same.
We brought gifts for the silver miners – coca leaves and dynamite.
The cart pusher is the entry level job. If you can hack this, you advance.
The driller, the most dangerous job in the mine.
Miners pay tribute to “Tio” in hopes of finding prosperity and remaining safe while working the mine. Tio is the guardian of the underworld (where the mine is within close proximity), if not pleased will bring misfortune upon the miners. You will see offering / sacrifices of alcohol, coca leaves, cigarettes, jewels, animals and some other horrific stories.
This is part of a silver vein. Miners will follow this vein vertically until it runs out.
This was once the richest city in the world. Today the elegant buildings still stand around Plaza de Armas, but the city has a stigma. Few people smile, say hello or even acknowledge your existence. Like most cities in Bolivia, there are countless groups protesting in the streets.