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Cerro Rico

Have you ever gone down a mine? After having read Paul Ohl’s book, Black Sun, in which he describes the tragic destiny of the Incas people, I felt urged to go see with my own eyes the place where so many human lives have been lost. I travelled to Bolivia precisely to Potosi, famous for being the highest city in the world and for the reddish mountain looming above it where the Cerro Rico mine is known as the largest in the world. This mountain is the largest graveyard in the world... more than six million people have died there for fifty thousand tons of silver. Looking at the mountain for the first time we found it beautiful with its red and gold rays. It is said that so much silver has been extracted from Cerro Rico that a bridge made up of this metal could be built over the Atlantic Ocean. Nowadays, there are but a few colonial houses that remain in Potosi to remind us of the prosperous past of that city. When I visited the mine, the miners were not working because it was their day-off. The mine is no longer exploited by multinational companies or entrepreneurs; however, the local miners continue probing the depths of Cerro Rico hoping to find residual caches of silver ore. The miners’ working conditions remain medieval, security is minimum, health risks are high, the work is hard and dangerous, the revenue is less than the minimum. The women work outside the mine; they search in the debris where there is not much of a chance to find anything.
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