03.15.09

Potosi – Mount Murder

Posted in Bolivia at 5:24 pm by Jackson Lee

I arrived in Potosi, sore eyed and exhausted from the journey across the Salar. Like most bus stations, chaos had control – we (Myslef, Derek and two dutch girls) escaped into a Taxi and were soon at the Koala Hostel. At 4090 meters, Potosi is considered the highest city in the world (verses Tibets Lhasa which is at 3650 meters), and it provides some comic moments. The three flights of stairs to the room required a least one break to catch my breath and generally finished in an exhausted collapse. Visiting sports teams (i.e. football teams) rarely beat the local Potosi teams which every year hangs round the top of the table.

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The city (founded in 1546 as a mining town ) is dwarfed by Mount Potosi (4,824 meters) – also known as Cerro de Potosi – and is famous in colonial history for financialing the Spanish for over 50 years. Official recors claim 45,000 tons of pure silver were mined from Cerro Rico from 1556 to 1783. Which equates to 177 lifes sacrificed for every tonne mined – for every 6 kilograms of silver you own, an Andean slave gave their life.

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As you can imagine, Potosi is a tourist destination focused on mining. At this attitude, people don’t come here to play golf, dance the tango or learn to whistle. Having avoided museums since arriving in South America I decided to check out the ‘Casa De Moneda’.

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Built in 1672 to process Potosi mined silver into coins before being shipped to Spain. As with much of the industry in the area, slave and indebted labour was used with extreme cruelty to run the operation. Its a moving feeling to stand in rooms where people suffered so horribly. The power, history and influence which buildings have on society has always intrigued me. We love to know what happens in places like the White House or the Vatican. When they stand the test of time, buildings always leave their importance on me. The treaty house in Waitangi of British manipulation and Maori pride. Darwin’s resident in Cambridge of humble enormity. The Roman forum for humanities grandness. Its being physical present that is the gift traveling gives.

Church in Potosi

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