The mine that created the wealth of Europe

Trip Start Jul 08, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Potosi in 17th century counted a 160 000 people, which was more than London, Paris, Sevilla and Rome. At the time, it was one of the richest cities in the world and the economic center of South America.  In 1658 for the celebration of Corpus Christi, they changed the stones in the street and replaced them with silver.  The silver supply at that time was 3 times everything Europe had.  Spain got crazy with all of this richness and bough luxury goods from all around the world and paid in silver.  All of Europe, China, Arabia, India traded the silver for their goods.  Spain did not build up its economy as others did.  In Europe, Holland got 30% of the silver, France 25%, Italy 20%, England and Germany 10% each.  Spain kept only about 5%.  There was a saying at that time that there was enough silver in Potosi to link South America and Europe together by a bridge of silver.  Europe and the world profited from this richness and although the mine is still opened today and operated by a cooperative of miners, they have bled dry Bolivia who is now one of the poorest countries in the world.  The Bolivians gave the soul of their earth along with their blood to the world, as 8 millions natives and African slaves died in the mines of Potosi.
Today, 15 000 miners work and extract 4.5 tons of rocks every day.  90 different types of minerals are extracted such as silver (a fraction of what it used to be), gold and tin.  Even if exploited for 400 years, it is still one of the biggest mine in the world and certainly the highest.  Therefore, Potosi is the highest city in the world, at 4100m above sea level.  A miner can expect to earn between 50 and 80 BS per day (about 7 to 11 $ per day).  Some are lucky and find a great treasure, giving them about 10 000 BS per month (about 1500$).
The city is a fantastic colonial city where still 150 000 people live.  It felt quite special to be in a city of such an history.
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