Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain) is the icon of Potosi. Its silver deposit was the sole reason for the founding of Potosi back in 1545. The wealth it generated put Potosi on the world’s map in the 16th century as the largest city in the Americas. It also provided the main financial support for the Spanish empire for over three centuries. On the other hand, Cerro Rico also represents one of the most cruel and tragic chapters in human civilization, as millions of indigenous and African slaves worked in extremely harsh conditions, staying underground for months, and as a result, over eight million slaves lost their lives. Nowadays, local mine workers still work in conditions similar to the past.
The tragic history of Potosi captivated us ever since we watched the documentary The Devil’s Miner, directed by Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani. Through the eyes of two child miners, the documentary depicted the extremely challenging lives and working conditions of miners at Cerro Rico. Before we came to Potosi, we have decided not to visit the cooperative mines at Cerro Rico. Despite of that, the history and physical appearance of Cerro Rico was so overwhelming that we couldn’t resist but to spend considerably amount of time at our hotel’s rooftop to observe it from afar in early morning and late afternoon. From afar, we noticed the unnatural colours on the mountain slopes caused by the mining and extracting process. We also saw the irregular forms on the mountain slope made by centuries of human manipulations. As vehicles going up and down the mountain road, we also wondered how local miners could sustain the lives of their families, knowing that most ores of valuable metals have already dried up long ago. Watching the perfect cone-shaped mountain overlooking the dusty city of Potosi, while imagining its past and contemplating its future, Cerro Rico is captivating, heavy and saddening.
* * *
Read other posts on Potosi, Bolivia
Day 33.2 – Arrival, Potosi, Bolivia
Day 34.1 – Civic Parade, Potosi, Bolivia
Day 34.2 – City Walk, Potosi, Bolivia
Day 35.1 – Convento de Santa Teresa, Potosi, Bolivia
Day 35.2 – Cerro Rico, Potosi, Bolivia
Day 36.1 – Morning Department, Potosi, Bolivia
* * *
South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought