The Silver Mine and Colonial City that Funded an Empire – Potosi, Bolivia

In late March I arrived to Potosi from Sucre. Founded in 1545, Potosi, Bolivia is famous for its world heritage listed colonial city centre and its mine. The silver production from Potosi’s mine was so prolific that it financed a large part of the Spanish empire.

During Spanish colonial times, Potosi’s silver was mined by a combination of paid and slave labour. Local indigenous and imported African slaves performed much of the most dangerous work. One estimate has 8,000,000 people dying from mining or related work over the centuries.

The Potosi Mint was first established in 1572. Although the current mint museum is based in a later building, it tells a very impressive and depressing story.

Potosi, Bolivia

A display in the Potosi Mint Museum showing indigenous and African labour working in dangerous conditions to process silver ore Continue reading