The Potosi Miners, Bolivia Photo Documentary #2

Miners – Potosi Mines, Cerro Rico, Cerro de Potosi, Bolivia

 

This photo documentary and article depicting the Potosi miners of Bolivia was submitted to Edge of Humanity Magazine by Pip Strickland blogger, writer and photographer at  The Adventures of Pip.

 

Click here to see Pip Stickland GALLERY OF PHOTOGRAPHS.

 

Miners - Potosi Mines, Cerro Rico, Cerro de Potosi, Bolivia

Miners – Potosi Mines, Cerro Rico, Cerro de Potosi, Bolivia

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO SEE ORIGINAL POST

Miner - Potosi Mines, Cerro Rico, Cerro de Potosi, Bolivia

Miner – Potosi Mines, Cerro Rico, Cerro de Potosi, Bolivia

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO SEE ORIGINAL POST

Miner - Potosi Mines, Cerro Rico, Cerro de Potosi, Bolivia

Miner – Potosi Mines, Cerro Rico, Cerro de Potosi, Bolivia

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO SEE ORIGINAL POST

Miner - Potosi Mines, Cerro Rico, Cerro de Potosi, Bolivia

Miner – Potosi Mines, Cerro Rico, Cerro de Potosi, Bolivia

‘In the 16th century, Potosi in Bolivia, became the world’s largest industrial complex. The Spanish pillaged it’s Cerro Rico mountain for silver, discarding the worthless tin in rubbish piles, and lined the pockets of the imperial bourgeoisie. The local Indian population were turned into slaves, with 8 million Incas thought to have died during the years of Spanish silver extraction. And then the silver ran out.

Today, the tin that was dumped in heaps or left within the tunnels of Cerro Rico provides a pittance for the population of Potosi.  The Spanish left the people and their ‘rich hill’ in poverty.

A few years ago, I visited Potosi, with its ornate colonial architecture and grand churches built before the Spanish left in 1825. In the 1980s, the Bolivian Government abandoned the no longer profitable mines and they were opened up to anyone willing to work. Today, small family-run cooperatives scour the mine for whatever is left – pounding, dynamiting the rock in tunnels, amidst an air low in oxygen and filled with dust. Silicosis and other pulmonary illnesses mean that few live beyond 40. Cooperatives provide health insurance and control the funds brought in by tourists visiting the mines.  This is a bonus to the small profits made by the miners after purchasing tools, dynamite, acetylene lamps and coca leaves to suppress hunger and pain during the long shifts underground. Days are made bearable by the consumption of strong alcohol, cheap and potent, and the worshiping of Tio, the God of the underworld, who holds the power of life and death in these volatile, claustrophobic conditions.

One would think in 500 years our acceptance of exploitation of the poor by the superpowers for ever increasing wealth would have waned. But what of our lust for diamonds at the expense of child soldiers, horrific amputations and devastation in Liberia and Sierra Leone, or our desire for coltan to build mobile phones and computer chips funding the brutal militias of Congo, or the World Cup stadiums in Qatar built on the corpses of Nepalese and Indian migrant workers? And when the resources are gone or the event over what are these people left with?

When Uruguayan author, Eduardo Galeano, visited Potosi in the 1960s he spoke to an ‘unemployed man who was scratching through the dirt with his hands’ who said: ‘The Cerro is still rich….There must be a God, you know: the metal grows just like a plant.’ How many more are left with deluded hope at the hands of western greed?’

 

This photo documentary and article depicting the Potosi miners of Bolivia was submitted to Edge of Humanity Magazine by Pip Strickland blogger, writer and photographer at  The Adventures of Pip.

 

Click here to see Pip Stickland GALLERY OF PHOTOGRAPHS.

 

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