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  • BOLIVIA CUSTOMS VACATION

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WHAT YOU WILL SEE

The “rich mountain” or “Cerro Rico” that towers over the city of Potosí once held the silver that lured Spanish Conquistadors to the world’s highest city. Cerro Rico is the ideal travel destination for those who want to explore the affect that colonization had upon the indigenous people of Bolivia. Although the silver is long gone, tin is still mined from Cerro Rico. Visitors may tour the mines as well as the Casa Nacional de Moneda, a museum that once housed the royal mint.

HISTORY

 Cerro Rico was famous for providing vast quantities of silver for Spain during the period of the New World Spanish Empire. The mountain, which is popularly conceived of as being "made of" silver ore, caused the city of Potosí to become one of the largest cities in the New World. After 1800, the silver mines were depleted, making tin the main product. This eventually led to a slow economic decline. Nevertheless, the mountain continues to be mined for silver to this day. Due to poor worker conditions, such as a lack of protective equipment against the constant inhalation of dust, many of the miners contract silicosis and have a life expectancy of around 40 years. The mountain is still a significant contributor to the city's economy, employing some 15,000 miners.

CULTURE

By the 17th century there were 160,000 colonists living in Potosí along with 13,500 Indians who were forced to work in the mines under the system of mita (mandatory labour). The Cerro de Potosí reached full production capacity after 1580, when a Peruvian-developed mining technique known as patio, in which the extraction of silver ore relied on a series of hydraulic mills and mercury amalgamation, was implemented. The industrial infrastructure comprised 22 lagunas or reservoirs, from which a forced flow of water produced the hydraulic power to activate 140 ingenios or mills to grind silver ore. The ground ore was amalgamated with mercury in refractory earthen kilns, moulded into bars, stamped with the mark of the Royal Mint and taken to Spain.

GEOGRAPHY

in Bolivia is situated east and southeast of the city of Potosí. It is at least 25 km long stretching from north to south. Its highest mountain is Khunurana (Anaruyu) rising up to 5,071 m (16,637 ft).The features of the range are considered the product of volcanic activity known as the Khari Khari caldera (19º43'S; 65º38'W). The caldera is about 40 km long and 25 km at its widest point.