Before Bolivia was known in the world, after the discovery of the Americas, all the world knew about Potosi and its incredible rich mountain “Cerro Rico de Potosi”. There was a say “you are worth a Potosi” (vale un Potosi), meant something rich, something of great value and almost infinite wealth.
This amazing mountain produced huge quantities of silver during the colony times and until this date continues to provide wealth to the world. Extraordinary quantities of silver, tin, tungsten, zinc and other precious metals that continue to supply food and shelter to the miners.
I visited this mine over ten years ago, my family and I decided to take the “foreigners tour” rather than the “local” one. That meant, going to the mountain from the city of Potosi on top of a mine heavy load truck, along with a group of Canadians, Germans, Swiss and other tourists. My family, as we were the only ones travelling with children and also the only Bolivians in the group, which served to interact better with those tourist, some of them we continue to be in touch with. This visit was much harder physically than the local one, we crawled five levels down and experienced how is to be in the quiet, dark, deep mountain where we met a miner who was on a 48 hour shift… the local visit only meant a one level visit inside an elevator.
Having being born in Potosi and returning there after many years, was an amazing challenge, my wife and kids were excited about the tour. Looking at the mountain one of the first reactions was that it did not look the same I remembered from my childhood. Its prominent statue, its shape was transformed… its peak no longer had the perfect triangular top that you can see in Bolivia’s Coat of Arms and in our coins.
Time does not pass in vain they say, a unequivocally truth regarding these wonderful mountain. Cerro Rico de Potosi who is a symbol on this nation, that represented our Republic and that all Bolivians cherish and respect is falling down…
The sad cartoon you see today, was published in La Razon newspaper on May 26th, 2011. It shows UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) inspecting the collapsing mountain top, while a miner is trying to stop him.
It is true that those miners need to work to bring food over to their families. It is a sad reality that we are a poor country that has been unable to provide solution to this issue. It is true that we are in the verge of loosing our nation’s greatest symbol and it seems that this giant will remain only in our national symbols as it is collapsing. We, the people who were born surrounded by mountains, grew a tendency to like them, to look after them for reference, we see them every day and we certainly feel identified by them. There is impotence to see this happening…
Such a landmark will be lost and nothing is being done to prove me wrong.
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