Potosi Bolivia

At 4000m above sea level, Potosi claims to be the highest city of its size anywhere in the world and it only exists for one reason – mining.  Founded by the  Spanish in the early 1500s, one story goes that centuries before, an Incan shepherd was searching for one of his llamas when he saw a glint of silver on the top of the mountain.  He heard thunder and a voice which told him the wealth was destined for other masters.  For the Spanish, this was a bonanza.  Incredibly rich silver deposits which they mined and used to mint coins for the entire Spanish empire right through until Bolivia gained its independence in 1825.  During this time it was the largest and wealthiest city in the Americas and its rich architecture still reflects this.   When silver mining became uneconomic, Potosi went into a long decline and became a ghost town until the mid 1900s when the miners came back for the deposits of tin, zinc, and other minerals.  Today there are 110 mines employing about 12,000 people.  The top of Cerro Rico or ‘Rich Mountain’ was originally about 5000m but the surface mining and subsidences have dropped its height by nearly 200m.  Pretty scary to think about all those independent mines burrowing away inside the mountain and whether there is a comprehensive plan to avoid a major collapse.


Today it is a major tourist destination especially for back-packers with hostels, cafes and tour guides everywhere.  An almost impossible city to photograph because the streets are so narrow and every landmark building has an ugly power pole right in front with masses of wires going in every direction.  An electricians nightmare also!  There are very few pedestrian zones and every narrow street is jammed with traffic right through the day.  Our drive in last evening was pretty exciting because only one car had a GPS with Bolivian maps and the one wrong turn took us into steep lanes where an exit looked unlikely.   Fortunately John and Ros recovered the situation nicely and found our way to the hotel where we successfully held up traffic for 10 minutes while the car park was opened and we could reverse to put our cars away.  Right now, I’m downloading a free App ‘Maps Are Me’ which has maps of Bolivia so fingers crossed we can manage for ourselves from now on.  Now let’s see, 5 minutes to download 5% ……



1 thought on “Potosi Bolivia

  1. Wires nothing unusual, like the Philippines and India. Seems a natural occurance in countries with little electricity/power mechanisms. I thought you would have seen a lot more antiquated stuff? Or are you saving that for later! Two of my students love Sth America having done something similar, so as you go I also tell my students. love lesley

    Liked by 1 person

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