It was a beautiful Sunday evening when I first set eyes on the quaint town of Potosi. The sun was setting over the local cathedral in the town’s central square, which was lined by local food stalls. The evening was bringing a captivating peace to the town, and I was looking forward to my stay here.
After checking into my local hotel, I began to wander the streets of this gorgeous mining town and admire the history and architecture I found here. Potosi sits at 13,400 feet (4,000m) above sea level, and I quickly noticed the altitude on the hilly streets wearing me down. I continued onto the central Casa Nacional de Moneda, the town’s former mint that is now a Bolivian art and history museum, to discover why this town is infamous.
The dominating mountain Cerro Rico looks out over the city and is one of the richest deposits of silver in the country. This mine made Potosi a major supplier of the Spanish Empire’s silver trade up until the 18th century. The town’s rich architecture is due to this important landmark, and Cerro Rico remains a working silver mine today. I was able to book a tour of the mine through my hotel but was warned that this is no tour for the light-hearted. Consisting of wonky ladders, small spaces, actively moving carts, and working minors, I held a sense of nervous anticipation in my heart to gain an insight into the local miner’s work, and daily struggles.