Anti-government protests, including strikes and road blocks, in the Bolivian region of Potosi disrupt mining operations. For centuries this Andean mountain has been the largest source of silver in the world. Today tin, zinc, lead, and silver are the main types of ore mined at Cerro Rico. They told the poor miners that if they did not mine efficiently, the devil would take them. The two dozen small-scale, often familyrun, mining cooperatives that took over can rarely afford the safer modern technology used in larger mining operations. The king said that this mountain should be left alone, because it was meant to belong to another master. Today Potosí's mythical wealth is evident only in the expression "un potosí" for someone unbelievably rich. Read about our approach to external linking. A Japanese-owned silver, zinc and lead mine has had to suspend many of its operations and other mines have also seen output disrupted. When Bolivia achieved independence in 1825 its silver mines were nearly exhausted and Potosí's population had decreased from 200,000 to 10,000. What does developing a Covid-19 vaccine look like? Mining and Agriculture in Highland Bolivia. The final result of the presidential election hinges on just a handful of key battleground states. However, another story says that the bones of those who died in the mine one could build two such bridges. Other mines in the region have also been affected, including several run by foreign companies, among them Coeur d'Alene Mines Corporation of the US and Switzerland-based Glencore. US election 2020: Could it be decided in courts? US election 2020 polls: Who is ahead - Trump or Biden? But this is not the only thing that makes the city amazing. It is made of silver, as the locals say. Cultural Survival envisions a future that respects and honors Indigenous Peoples' inherent rights and dynamic cultures, deeply and richly interwoven in lands, languages, spiritual traditions, and artistic expression, rooted in self-determination and self-governance. The UK Foreign Office said it was offering consular assistance to a number of British nationals, and is advising against all travel to the Potosi/Uyuni region. Potosí is a mining town famous for the incredible riches that have been cut out of the Cerro Rico Mountain ever since 1545, when the Spaniards began with large-scale excavation. The mineworker also has to cover the costs of his equipment -- tools, acetylene lamps, dynamite, and the coca leaves that react with saliva and calcium carbonate to produce the strong, pain- and hunger-killing stimulant essential to mastering the sometimes 72-hour work shifts. The Spanish crown received the main benefit from the silver produced at Potosí. Protesters have also been staging hunger strikes. Its silver soon became the foundation of the Spanish Empire, and at its peak in the seventeenth century Potosí was one of the world's largest and wealthiest cities. Miguel de Cervantes mentions Potosí in Don Quixote, describing it as a place of “extraordinary richness.”. © 2020 BBC. Life is harsh on the Bolivian Altiplano. Cerro Rico is not only rich with silver, it also possesses zinc and tin ores. Oxygen is scarce at 4000 meters, and even scarcer in the small tunnels of the mine. Today it seems that nothing has changed. The Cerro Potosí silver veins were so rich that it is estimated that 60 percent of all the silver in the world during the 16th century came from Potosí. Today, miners still lose their lives in accidents or because of poor health conditions. He remains the sole owner of the material he extracts and his profit is based on production. Potosí, known as Villa Imperial de Potosí in the colonial period, is the capital city and a municipality of the Department of Potosí in Bolivia.It is one of the highest cities in the world at a nominal 4,090 metres (13,420 ft). There is a legend about how this mountain got its name. The town of Potosí became the second largest city in the Americas, all because of the huge mineral deposits, the cheap and simple production process of silver, but most of all because of the hard-working local miners whose labor the Spanish used through the Incan “mita” system of contributed labor. Potosi, Bolivia's key mining region, has been hit by a general strike and protests for the past fortnight. They then insert a stick of dynamite, blow out a piece of rock, and have their assistants -- young boys, many of them not yet in their teens -- carry the debris out of the mine in a wheelbarrow. With nearly 10 percent of its 120,000 inhabitants working either in the mining industry or in related areas, Potosí is one of the few exceptions to the rule. Soon, this extinguished volcanic dome became active again. Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc. Our website houses close to five decades of content and publishing. In pictures: Trump and Biden through the years, Rescuers rush to save beached pilot whales. So when “silver fever” started to slowly decline after the 1800s and demand for silver around the world fell, the miners in Potosí started mining for tin. Video, Tech to spot sailor’s mood in tough global race, 'Young black people need role models to see' Video, 'Young black people need role models to see', What does developing a Covid-19 vaccine look like? He also defended the central government's record of investment in the region. Nevertheless, all of the native workers were exposed to very hard conditions and had a short life span. North Pole time capsule washes up on Irish coast. This is probably why the expression “vale un Potosí” (which is still in use), which means “to be worth a Potosí,” was invented. Read another story from us:Zhangye Danxia: A Chinese national park with stunning rainbow mountains, Cerro Potosí, which is declared as a UNESCO world heritage site, serves as a symbol for humanity’s thirst for power. Even today, the conflicts that emerge relate to the exploitation of mineral resources at Potosi and involve several actors: the Government, mines, social movements, workers and unions. The tourists are appreciated because they bring along presents such as cigarettes, coca leaves, and sticks of dynamite bought at the miner's market before entering the mines. R. (1990). The frightened miners returned and told the king what happened, using the word “potocsí” (noise) for the thunderous sound. There are around 15,000 workers risking their lives every day in the mines of Potosí, working with no protection, exposed to the rocks and dust and gas poisoning. Food stocks have been running low and there have been long queues at banks as customers try to withdraw cash. VideoTech to spot sailor’s mood in tough global race, 'Bigorexia leading to depression' among gym-goers, 'Young black people need role models to see' Video'Young black people need role models to see'. Demonstrators have several demands, including the settlement of a boundary dispute with the neighbouring province of Oruro. Video. With road and air links blocked, food supplies are running low and some foreign tourists have been stranded. VideoWhat does developing a Covid-19 vaccine look like? Paid jobs are difficult to find and most people live on subsistence agriculture or small herds of Llamas and Alpacas. Due to the abrupt changes of temperature between the hot tunnels of the mine and the chilly Altiplano winds, miners frequently suffer from colds. This statistic illustrates the number of casualties in selected mining accidents that occurred worldwide from 2005 to 2019. Miners still work in the shafts and the working conditions are still much the same. They also want more investment, including the expansion of the airport, new roads and the construction of a cement factory. The solution would come via dialogue, presidential spokesman Ivan Canelas said. If we need something, we are apparently ready to dig through a whole mountain, Join 1000s of subscribers and receive the best Vintage News in your mailbox for FREE, Police arrest a 72-year-old “suburban grandfather” suspected of being the Golden State Killer, “I’m not dead yet”: some Buddhist monks followed self-mummification, Project Azorian: Howard Hughes’ secret mission, 1960s U.S. satellite that started transmitting again in 2013, The “Walk of Shame” in Game of Thrones historical inspiration, The only unsolved skyjacking case in U.S. history might have a break, Kurt Gödel became too paranoid to eat and died of starvation, “Little Ease”: One of the most feared torture devices in the Tower of London, The humble English girl who became Cora Pearl, Walt Disney softened the original Snow White story. The blockades have made it difficult for tourists to get out of the historic city of Potosi. Rescuers rush to save beached pilot whales. Tech to spot sailor’s mood in tough global race. Trump sues as path to victory over Biden narrows, Church pastor a career con artist. These old-fashioned lamps have the advantage of going out whenever the oxygen in the air is used up; mineworkers know to get out of the shaft immediately to avoid suffocation when their lamps go out. Potosí with Cerro Rico in the background. Some 30 foreign visitors managed to leave Potosi earlier in the week, but several are still there. What does developing a Covid-19 vaccine look like? Discover Potosí Silver Mines in Potosi, Bolivia: Mountain of unimaginable riches that bankrolled the Spanish Empire, complete with its own underworld god. Because of the high death toll (even today), Cerro Rico is also known as the “mountain that eats people.” Central Potosi street To keep the miners frightened and therefore more productive, the Spanish introduced them to the concept of the devil. The mansions and churches of Potosí are gradually being restored (under a UNESCO program) to their former glory, but in a city soon to be a prime tourist destination, most of the miners of the Cerro Rico Mountain have been left out of the equation, abandoned in their shafts as if nothing had ever changed. US election 2020: When will we know the result? The miners are working on their own, alone or organized in cooperatives. The story of silver-mining in Potosí begins in the 16th century when the Spaniards discovered the mountain and saw its huge potential. Very few find enough metal to significantly improve their standard of living; the vast majority never rise out of poverty. The Riches of Potosi, Slavery & Death in Cerro Rico, Bolivia Within a few years of the Spanish arrival thousands of indigenous workers were toiling in the mines. They collected the silver and took taxes from all the entrepreneurs who wanted to open mines. S19 35 0.996 W65 45 11.016. Potosi surface mining Author:Sascha Grabow CC BY-SA 3.0, Besides the “mitayos” (mita workers were treated almost as slaves), there were also “mingas” who worked under a contract. The only difference today is that the ore (mostly zinc) doesn’t go to the Spanish crown. Protesters are demanding government investment in their region. .css-8h1dth-Link{font-family:ReithSans,Helvetica,Arial,freesans,sans-serif;font-weight:700;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;color:#FFFFFF;}.css-8h1dth-Link:hover,.css-8h1dth-Link:focus{-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}Read about our approach to external linking.