"Potosi and Cerro Rico" Potosí by Waxbag
Potosí Travel Guide: 124 reviews and 351 photos
My father questioned our going to Potosi, Bolovia after seeing the satellite image using Google Earth. He said it’s in the middle of nowhere, without a shred of green, and has an altitude of 4100 m. Well, Dad’s right as always. This city is in the middle of nowhere and wasn’t built because of its lovely arboreal population. But I not only wanted to see the city that grew from nothing, I wanted to see its benefactor.
In 1545, the city of Potosi was built virtually overnight. Over the next twenty years, its population exploded to 100,000 making it by far the largest city in the Americas. By the 17th century it was the largest city in the world at 160,000. It imported everything from basic food supplies and construction material to Persian rugs and Chinese porcelain. All roads led to Potosi. Opulence and decadence best described Potosi at this time with gambling houses, theaters, brothels, dancehalls, richly constructed civil works buildings, magnificent mansions, and dozens of splendid churches (to absolve all sins of course).
But surely it didn’t grow from nothing, Potosi grew from Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain) the richest single source of silver in the world and from it Spain and Europe were propped up nearly singled handedly . . . but at a price. Over the three centuries of colonial mining it is estimated that 9 million indigenous and African slaves were consumed in the mine or died from related diseases. Many were forced to spend up to 4 months in the mine without pay as a mita (required service to the state started by the Incas and then abused by the Spanish). The boom bubble busted after 1650 and the city and the country declined dramatically. Potosi’s population fell to 30,000 by the time of independence in 1825. The town has recovered since then and enjoys an acceptable level of prosperity at 120,000 with a youthful vibe, but is still poor by most standards. After 500 years, minerals are still extracted from the mountains, but very little in the way of mining technology and safety standards have evolved. Little has changed with one exception … it’s open for tourism.
- Pros:Beautiful Colonial town with facinating Silver Mine
- In a nutshell:Colonial Gem of Bolivia
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