Potosi is one of the highest cities in the World... it's about 4.200 meters above the sea level, which is a lot! Even though I didn't have major problems because of the lack of oxygen... walking around is tough. Don't even try to play soccer with the locals!
If you've never been to such a high place before... take the proper pills. In my case, I didn't even know about those pills and I suffered! The first morning I woke up with one of the worst headaches I've ever experienced... and that wasn't just hangover! ha!!
Seeing this beautiful streets. very narrow, colonial. They relive the glorious past of Potosi.
Ver estas hermosas calles, muy estrechas, coloniales. Te hace revivir el pasado glorioso de Potosi. Wow, such an amazing experience.
worth the walk to the edge of town
The entire city is on the World Heritage List but the back streets are especially timeless and you can truly get lost wandering around them. Sometimes food becomes more than just fuel or a way to experience a culture for me, it becomes an obsession. I had read about an interesting little eatery on the edge of Potosi and enjoyed the chance to see another part of the city on the twenty-minute walk to it. The city had been a bit of a disappointment. It didn’t live up to the quaint mountain village image we both had conjured in our heads. It was at 4000 meters as promoted and though it had an interesting array of buildings, it was a bigger city and much more crowded than expected. There were not so many gringos there, but it was full of Bolivian tourists as well as a sizable population of well-heeled locals. So, it was nice to escape the masses for an afternoon and it was interesting to walk by the area around the local bus terminal and its bustling market. We certainly stuck out but as was always the case in Bolivia, we never felt threatened or that our presence bothered anyone. We reached the restaurant more quickly than anticipated and it was just packed. The owner quickly came over and found us a couple seats, squeezing us in between two separate groups of locals at a long wooden table. It was a gregarious place, everyone talking loudly, feeling at home and having a great time. There was just a chalkboard menu with four items on it. We had come to try fricassee, a local specialty that was in the name of the restaurant so we ordered it only to find they didn’t have any left. Dejected, the waiter said to come back earlier the next day and they would have it. We didn’t know what anything else was on the limited menu but noticed that nearly everyone was eating from earthen bowls so we asked him what it was. We hooked the name up with the menu prices and it was certainly worth a try at less than a dollar. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
Casa de la moneda (mint)
The first mint in Potosí, was built during the second half of the 18th century to control minting activities right where the silver was extracted. The Museo de la Casa de la Moneda has exhibits on silver and gold coining as well as colonial paintings.
cerro rico can't possibly be in the favourite thing list for no one but those who made lot of money from its silver, but it's a presence that simply can't be ignored here. Since the silver melted under the fire of a peasant in mid XVI century, the mountain was excavated and the trace of all this digging are easily seen on the surface. Unfortunately silver extraction caused some loss of lives amongst the people forced to work in the mines, a loss of lives that has been calculated in more than eight million... quite the most massive holocaust in history.
All the natives (and slaves from africa) over the age of 18 had to work twelve-hour shifts while younger children worked less but were subject to poisonous gasses, and other amenities without being able to see sunlight for weeks as miners lived underground even when they were off shift.
Nowadays the silver is over but the mines are still active to extract less precious minerals as zinc and tin. The miners are organized in cohoperatives, but work conditions are still hard bringing to a life expectation of 40 years. Do not think to find an old miner, they simply do not exist as, in spite of all the people imported from africa, it's impossible to find a single native african... they simple didn't survive the cold, the height and the mine work.
Outside potosì you can see some depuration plant that buy mineral from the miner for a few money... it seems like they had a good idea to make money on the mine without being directely involved in the work condition in the mines.... legally at least.