Potosí is located in south-eastern Bolivia at a height of 4090 m above sea level. It is considered the highest city in the world and is a unique destination with a unique story.
Due to its favorable location at the foot of the Cerro Rico (”rich mountain”), during the period of the New Spanish Empire ,Potosí was supplying an incredible quantity of silver and other minerals to the Spanish Crown, and was location of the Spanish national mint for a long time.
The mines of Cerro Rico had already producted over 150,000 tons of silver for the spanish by the end of the 18th century making it the most productive silver mine in history.
Now many years later the mountain has lost its original shape and must resemble a shadow of its former self.In recent years there have been concerns there are so many mine shafts inside that the structural integrity of the mountain is comprimised with several studies being made on how it might be stabilised.
Mining is still the most important industry in the area although and many of the mines are owned by mining co-operatives which at least means that more of the profits can directly benefit the local workers.
The life of a miner can be tough though as conditions inside the mines are not modern and mean exposure to many dangers both immediate from tunnel collapses or long term from the all too common health afflictions.
For those interested in learning more about Cerro Rico and the modern day life of the miners it is possible to take a tour that visits a mine, meets some of the miners and teaches your about their life, superstitcions and the workings of the mine.
It is both an interesting and sometimes shocking experience for some, with children as young as 10 years old sometimes working in the mines
Some of the profits from the tours actually go towards the miners themselves andtourists are encouraged to bring gifts of coca leaves, cigarettes or mining supplies to give to the miners which are greatly appreciated.
See full details of our Potosi city Tours
There is an interesting documentary film called “The Devils Miner” that follows the life of a 14 year miner that works in Cerro Rico that is well worth a watch. You can find the dvd to buy online and also in store in Bolivia.
You can see the trailer of the film here
The Devil’s Miner Trailer
CASA DE MONEDA
The Casa real de la Moneda (Royal Mint) is the city´s star attraction and one of South America´s finest and most intereting museums. The first mint ub Potosi was constructed on the present site of the Casa de Justici in 1572 nder ordes of the Viceroy Toledo.
During colonial times , due to the sheer volume of silver being mined in the area, it made sense to the spanish to construct a royal mint to produce coins right in Potosi.
The building now operates as a museum and it provides a fasinating glimpse into the past glory of the city and the spanish empire.
Occupying an entire block, the building is well fortified as to be expected and must be visited as part of a guided tour. Spanish language tours depart regulary but if you want English guided tour then you should check in advance the availability and times as they generally run 4 times per day