Sad, Beautiful, Horrific, Fantastic Potosi

As I mentioned in a previous post, Potosi is a fairy-tale city. Elevated above the rest of Bolivia, and in fact, above the world (it is the highest city in the world at 4060 meters), Potosi possesses a fictional charm. Lantern-lit cobblestone streets, colorful, ornate edifices, characters in costumes of yesteryear, Potosi is a beautiful but sad town.

Despite the storybook aura, Potosi is buried under years of torment and pillage under Spanish rule. For centuries Potosi has suffered exploitation from foreign countries that came and raped the minerally-rich city and from its own corrupt government. At one point Potosi was one of the richest cities in the world, next to London and Paris. Now, Potosi-ans struggle in poverty and 11-year-old children work the mines of Cerro Rico every day until they cannot survive any more (on average about 10 years before suffering from the toxic gases.)

On Friday, I visited the mines:

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granny´s been workin the mines for 25 years. a strong soul.

granny´s been workin the mines for 25 years. a strong soul.

Oh, just me and my dynamite...hangin´out before it blows up in 2 minutes. Glad I know how to assemble it now.

Oh, just me and my dynamite...hangin´out before it blows up in 2 minutes. Glad I know how to assemble it now.

Yes, we bought dynamite as a gift for the miners…it´s some pretty intense shit, and it makes you feel like your heart is leaping out of your body. I met a guy who blew up a grenade in Vietnam. Small potatoes compared with the dynamite, he said.

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I´m Just a Miner with a Heart of Gold

I´m Just a Miner with a Heart of Gold

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~ by ceciliabien on January 20, 2009.

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