I had never heard of Potosi but it turns out that in the 16th 17th and 18th centuries it was one of the wealthiest towns in the known world. It is built at the foot of a mountain that is uber rich in minerals. The indigenous people origiinally found silver there and when the Conquistadores arrived they took full advantage of it. They enslaved the indigenous and had them mining for the silver.
They built a mint house which is now a museum that we visited. The old tools and machinery are still there.  At that time a numeracy system based on the number 8 was being used thus we get the coin a piece of eight. There were also pieces of four and pieces of two. The original coins were made of pure silver and became  known as Real. Reals are still the cutrrrency in parts of South America. The silver coins were minted here in Potosi and shipped back to Europe if they could escape the depredations of Sir Francis Drake and other pirates
After lunch we went to the miners market where we bought dynamite, cigarettes and 95% whisky as. gifts for the miners so that they would take time off to talk to us.


Nowadays the miners look for zinc, copper and of course silver. The team we ‘chatted’ too were a guy of 58 a boy of 15 and a young man of 22.

Potosi is 4200 metres and I found it very difficut to breath. The Tour leader offered me oxygen which apparently we carry with us, but I wasn’t bad enough to need it. I think my recent cold has hampered my breathing a bit. Nonetheless I am better than many of the group some of whom have had nosebleeds or severe headaches.

This entry was posted in The Galapagos & The Andes. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Potosi!

  1. Naomi Tschoegl says:

    Any vacation where you need oxygen and purchase dynamite is certainly unique!


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