Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ah, Potosi...Nothing like It.

We arrived in the mountian city of Potosi after a day of sleeping in, laundry and overall recovery from the desert in Uyuni. We took a 9 p.m. overnight, smelly bus northward where we were cramped and battered from sharp narrow seats. Potosi itself once boasted itself as the largest city in the world during the 1600´s. It was during that time that ore was discovered and the Spanish, claiming the Bolivian territory at the time, reaped the stock pile riches of silver that were found with the famous Potosi Mine. At one point their was so much profit from the precious metal that the the people lined the curbs of the city in silver.

Luxury didn´t come without a cost. Over the mine´s five hundred year´s in existance, over 8 million workers have died while working it. These casualties have ranged from breathing in the toxic fumes put out by the mining operation to colapses. It is said by officials and reinstated by tour guides that the life expectancy of a current worker in the mine is 10 years.

Now the disasterous history of the mine has in some way transformed it into a tourist attraction where gringos can pay to go tour the mines and experience the horrible conditions that these workers indure. I found the whole thing to be pretty sickening. It´s as if these people were placed on display for the idiot travelers to see. Explotation at it´s worst. I had no intentions of taking a tour and we didn´t. We brought food and cigerettes to some of the workers on our way to other pressing matters. Eric and I had other intentions all together.

We heard a rummor that you could purchase sticks of dynamite at the mines.

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