Inside the Mountain that Eats Men: A Photo Tour of the Potosi mines

Inside the Mountain that Eats Men: A Photo Tour of the Potosi mines

The deep thud of the blast ripples along the stone walls of the mineshaft. The walls are laced with moisture, the liquid appearing out of nowhere and everywhere. The explosion brings with it a light breeze and the earth shakes around me. It is hot, damp and hard to breathe 30 meters below the earth’s surface. The mask that I wear, made of a material similar to cardboard, is now more black than white. Only 45 minutes earlier our tour group had witnessed the placement of 10 sticks of dynamite. To maximize the explosion’s effectiveness, each stick was muzzle-loaded into its own two foot hole using a makeshift metal rammer. The men stuffing the holes are dinosaurs in the mine, close to 40 years old. The BBC reports that the average lifespan of the miners is 35. Nine more explosions sound off in rapid fire, like an underground 21 gun-salute. Then silence. The blast unearths the bounty of tin, zinc, magnesium and silver encased within the walls. The minerals are collected by the lowest laborers on the totem pole and hauled up to the surface in iron carts. When compared to the young faces pushing them, the carts seem positively ancient. History To history buffs and avid South American travellers, the Potosi mine or Cerro Rico “Rich Mountain” needs no introduction. Up until recently, I was neither, so taking a tour of the mine was an eye-opening experience. Potosi mine has been in operation since 1546, originally under the auspices of the Spanish crown. The silver rush exploded here and buoyed the rise of the Spanish state. Potosi city held the largest industrial...
Thank you Bolivia for Reminding me

Thank you Bolivia for Reminding me

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas Thank you, Bolivia, for reminding me of who and what I am. I had forgotten. It’s been a slow process and I can’t pinpoint when it was that I started to forget. Maybe sometime during college, maybe even before. Perhaps during high school when I was trying to get over my lanky awkwardness. Perhaps it was later, when I was working at a multinational company, a small cog in a giant machine. And I don’t know why I forgot either. Maybe it was because I was too busy going to parties and having a good time during school. Maybe it was because, afterwards I was too obsessed with my career. Maybe, it’s simply because that’s what you are expected to do when you grow up. In any case, I forgot. Thank you, Bolivia, for reminding me that I like being outside. I forgot how good the sun feels in the early morning, right when the coolness of night is just a faint breath in the air, and the earth is starting to soak up the life-giving heat. Or the way the wind feels when it rushes past me as I ride a bike downhill, the wind whipping my cheeks and shouting in my ear something that only I can hear. Thank you, Bolivia for holding me in the dance of the earth. I remember the feeling. On your ground, I really looked at the stars. I used to do that when I was a kid – look up at them and take in all of the possibilities of what could be out there – contemplate how...

Samaipata, Bolivia – Markets and Ruins

We arrived in Samaipata late at night. The chill of the night reminded us that we should be finding accommodations quickly, preferably somewhere that had central heating… Then we remembered, finding central heating in Bolivia is about as common as spotting a jaguar at a national park (Jaguars are hard to spot if you didn’t catch my drift)… Click on the title at the top of this page to read the entire...
Santiago de Chiquitos – A little town with a big view

Santiago de Chiquitos – A little town with a big view

Santiago de Chiquitos is stuck fifty years ago in time. But it’s not a bad thing. Come to think of it, outside of the major cities (Sucre, La Paz, Santa Cruz) most of Bolivia is beautifully stuck. Cows and donkeys have as much right to the road as cars.  Laundry is often done in flowing streams and horses are a valid form of transportation.… (Click the title at the top of the email to read the rest of this...