Tuesday, 9 November 2010
Our next stop was Potosi, which is one of the highest cities in the world and famous for its silvermines. Potosi used to be one of the wealthiest cities in South America and there is still a saying, 'valer un potosi' - 'to be worth a potosí' (a fortune), but since the silver has been depleted it's become really poor. The mines are a big tourist attraction but we decided not to go because we arrived on the day of the dead and were told that there would be no workers in the mines the next day because they'd be hungover. Actually the streets were fairly rowdy that night and we went into a whiskeria where they had nothing left but one type of beer. Apparently the miners drink 98 proof alcohol down in the mines and along with chewing coca leaves to stave off hunger, this keeps them going. The conditions are so awful in the mines that the workers' life expectancy is around 40. In the mines there is an effigy of 'El Tio' (the uncle), the devil that they worship to bring them fortune.