Friday, June 4, 2010

Potosi, Bolivia

     Potosi is an interesting place, for several reasons.  At 4060 meters (or so), it is one of the highest cities in the world.  Potosina, the local brewery, claims to be the highest (in altitude) brewery in the world.  Potosi's other claim to fame is that silver was discovered here in 1544, during the Spanish Conquest.  Spain took full advantage of this, forced the locals to do the dirty work, and the silver of Potosi funded the Spanish Monarchy for nearly 300 years.  In the late 1500's and 1600's Potosi was easily the most populated city in the Americas, and had nearly as many people as London or Paris.  Surely you knew that, right?
     Today some desperate souls still work the mines, which are now run as a cooperative.  Working conditions are terrible, and a few years in the mines is guaranteed to shorten your life considerably.  We passed on the opportunity to visit there.
     Otherwise Potosi is a fairly quiet town with loads of colonial buildings and churches to admire.  The day we arrived the town was very quiet, as it was a holiday - Corpus Christi.  We asked around, but nobody could tell us exactly what it was about, something having to do with 40 days since Easter.  We wandered around town (slowly, this is over 13,000 feet!!) and soaked in the sights.  The next day we visited the Casa Nacional de Moneda, or National Mint, where coins were made from 1572 until the 1950's.  The fortress-like building features a collection of manufacturing hardware from all time periods, as well as a great museum with siver pieces (even a bedpan) artwork, mummies, and Inca artifacts.
  While in Potosi we went to a local place for lunch, and the meal was amazing.  After a little potato salad, we were served a huge bowl of soup.  This was followed by a very full plate of meat with rice or pasta (none could finish), with some ice cream to finish.  We were bursting.  Cost was USD $7 - for 4 people!

Next - Tupiza Bolivia


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