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It is one of the poorest cities in Peru today with a majority population composed of indigenous peoples. From the depths of this amazing mountain, huge amounts of silver have been extracted since 1545.. Tours, tourism and hotels in Bolivia From the 1550’s Potosi was at the center of the first explosive development of global intercontinental exchange creating the first true globalized economic and trading network. Due to this depletion, tin took over as the main product. It is estimated that eighty-five percent of the silver produced in the central Ande… In an effort to be in compliance with GDPR we are providing you with the latest documentation about how we collect, use, share and secure your information, we want to make you aware of our updated privacy policy here. This article examines the long history of Potosí, Bolivia, home of the world’s most productive silver mines. Silver was also carried via the Rio de la Plata (the “silver river”) following the reestablishment of Buenos Aires in 1580. Because of the hellish conditions, many of the miners survive by drinking extremely strong alcohol, chewing coca leaves, and worshiping Tio — a god of the underworld who holds the power of life and death between his fingers. Quite frankly, after all these years, the former “rich” mountain hardly has any more treasures to give. Silver Mines is located at a historic mining operation and is known for its Precambrian granite and felsite rocks. The silver rich veins of the “Cerro Rico” are about a meter wide on average and the vines dive steeply into the mountain from the surface. The rebels rejected their Mita obligations totally. If the voyage lasted more than six months the ships could become floating coffins. The Parian District in Manila, Manila, 1671, Archivo General de Indias, Sevilla, Spain, The gate to the 16th century Chinese quarter in Manila. Even Cervantes allu­ ded to these riches in his Don Quixote. In May 1657 the Manila galleon arrived off the Mexican coast under full sail, its treasures intact, but with everyone on board dead. Like so much written about Potosi. The fleet bound for the isthmian Caribbean port of Nombre de Dios, known as Galeones, left San Lucar, the port of Seville, in mid-April. Potosi: AN EMPIRE OF SILVER David F. Myrick Is RICH AS Potosi is a comparative phrase used by miners of the Western world. The Chinese monetary system was especially responsive to the arrival to Spanish American silver. The demands of the mining community for supplies, food and labor were so great that it opened up a whole spectrum of profitable opportunities and provoked a series of regional and international repercussions. These officials were Spanish born and were required to sign an oath to behave honestly and they were bonded by leading Potosi households. We’re leaving Sucre with a bus that is taking us to Potosí – one of the highest cities in the world – in just over three hours. The massive salt beds of the Salar de Uyuni, the World’s largest salt flat, was several days walk away. Please click below to consent to the use of this technology while browsing our site. As the saying went: “No peace beyond the line.” The Spaniards in response instituted a system of armed convoys. Mercury was essential to the processing of silver ore and was imported from the Almaden mines in La Mancha in Spain. But the name Huancavelica (a corruption of the Quechua name for the site which meant “stone idol”) stuck. Legend attributes its name to potojchi or potocsi, a Quechua word meaning “deafening noise,” or “crash.”. The rise of silver production in Potosí also transformed the shipping in the Spanish Atlantic system. Potosí, Bolivia, with Potosí Mountain in the background. Public Domain . The silver produced in Potosi was carried on the backs of llamas and mules to Pacific coast from whence it was shipped from Arica to the isthmus of Panama where mule trains carried the silver overland to the Caribbean port of Nombre de Dios. The great advantage of the amalgamation over smelting was that it made the exploitation of lower grade silver ores profitable and greatly extended the range that could be worked, and salt mixed with mercury was used to extract fine grains from silver from what had before been worthless host rock. Sixteen Andean provinces were designated to provide a labor pool for Potosi at any given time. 1607, Hispanic Society of America, New York. Atlas Obscura and our trusted partners use technology such as cookies on our website to personalise ads, support social media features, and analyse our traffic. On the outskirts of a desert trading village high on the Andean plain, steel giants have been destroyed by salt winds. Potosí was founded as a mining town in 1546, while Bolivia was still part of the Viceroyalty of Peru. The foundation of the city dates from 1547, two years after the discovery of silver on the Cerro. The Potosi “piece of eight” was the world’s first global currency crossing frontiers and financing trade and wars. 465 years has not shown a great improvement in working conditions. The growth of Potosi stimulated the regional economy. Agricultural and pastoral activities were stimulated on both sides of the Andes. By the 1530s some thirty ships a year were involved in the Panama to Callao trade; at the end of the sixteenth century the number ranged from fifty to sixty. Elsewhere crude noticed pine logs reaching up to 400 feet from the lower levels were used. Silver was in great demand in India and China. Silver Mines Ltd. are a junior, late stage development company looking for silver with one mine in development in Australia and three exploration properties. Potosi is the world’s highest city (4,090 metres / 13,420 feet) and the mines are located even further up – at 4,200 metres (or 13,779 feet) altitude – on the ‘silver mountain’ Cerro Rico. Huancavelica became the “greatest jewel in the Crown” and mercury became the basis on which the tax on precious metals, the “quinto,” was levied. By 1531 silver imports into Seville passed gold by weight and by 1561 silver imports surpassed gold by value. Hardware had to be imported from Spain: Ironware, nails, horseshoes, machetes, pickaxes, hinges, locks. El Tio, meaning “the Uncle,” appears as a devilish creature, and his statues in the mines are given offerings of cigarettes, strong alcohol, and coca leaves. 6000 such furnaces (guayra), set on pedestals to capture the wind, covered the hills around Potosi during the early years burning wood, charcoals, and llama dung. Potosi is located about 150 kilometres southwest of the ‘white city’ of Sucre. 27.5 x 21.5 cm. Does the traditional story of Potosi’s discovery and naming sound likely to you? It is the world's biggest silver mine by a factor of 2. Many miners die in cave-ins or from silicosis, a serious disease that damages the lungs, and there’s been recent concern of the whole mine collapsing. To this day, a workers’ collective extracts minerals from the mine. Per the Colorado State University, History of Porco and Potosi: Historical research suggests that well before the Inca invasion around 1,000 AD, Porco was the location of silver mines as well as an important ritual center that attracted pilgrims from throughout the southern Andes. In 1600 the fleet carried 3,393 quintiles of mercury. By 1620 the population of Potosi reached between 100,000 and 120,000 people, making it larger than Seville or Lisbon, and half the size of the greatest cities in Europe. Between 1545 and 1810 Potosi’s silver contributed nearly 20% of all known silver produced in the world across 265 years. Father Andres de Udaneta succeeded in making the connection between Manila and the Mexican coast by sailing north of the 38th parallel north, off the coast of Japan, before catching the eastward blowing “Westerlies” to take the route across the Pacific reaching the west coast of North America before sailing south to Acapulco. During the sixteenth century the population of Potosi grew to over 200,000 and its silver mine became the source of 60% of the world’s silver. He was right. Follow us on Twitter to get the latest on the world's hidden wonders. The silver mine started in 1877 and closed in 1946. To learn more or withdraw consent, please visit our cookie policy. The dramatic rise in Spanish American silver production in the 1570’s was the result of the adoption at Potosi of the “patio” process of amalgamation of silver ores with mercury which produced a quadrupling of silver export from Peru in the ten years between 1576-1585. In 1602 the Italian Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci and his assistant Li Zhizou marked the “Potosi Mountain” (Bei Du Xi Shan) on their world map for Wanli, China’s Emperor. The mud was then washed away into troughs or vats (tingas) and the silver amalgam put into canvas bags, any free mercury filtering out. But the great Potosi silver facilitated global interconnected trade and finance network did not survive the 17th century. In 1545, a new Spanish mining town was founded in the Andes mountains of modern-day Bolivia, and for next 250 years, the mines of Potosí would fund the Spanish crown and its imperial ambitions. In 1672, Potosí became the site of the Spanish Colonial Mint and, with a population of around 200,000, was one of the richest cities in the world. Today, the descendants of those slaves … Between 1550 and 1650 ships from Mexico and the isthmus of Panama converged on Havana where they took on water and supplies for the transatlantic voyage to Spain. Enjoy kayaking, canoeing, swimming, hiking and picnicking year-round. Brazil was connected to Potosi’s mining complex from Buenos Aires. The flow of Spanish American silver to Asia via Europe was facilitated when in December of 1580 Philip ll of Spain arrived in Lisbon to claim the crown of Portugal as Philip l of Portugal. During the sixteenth century the population of Potosi grew to over 200,000 and its silver mine became the source of 60% of the world’s silver. The Parian District in Manila, Manila, 1671, Archivo General de Indias, Sevilla, Spain, Potosi today (November 2020); Photo by Lucas Bertolo. Largest site of dinosaur footprints ever found includes more than 5,000 tracks. But above all the sliver of Potosí was desired in Asia, India and above all to China. The rapid introduction of the most modern technology was a characteristic of these early years of European colonial activity in the Americas. Also known as Cerro Rico (Spanish for “Rich Mountain”), the peak’s huge supply of silver has led to both immense riches and appalling suffering. Simply stephanite and wire silver, and pretty cool! The voyage took only eight to ten weeks. 1590) Boxer Codex, Lilly Library, Indiana University. Potosi acted as a magnet for produce and manufactured goods from all over South America and beyond. Potosí was founded as a mining town in 1546, while Bolivia was still part of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Broken Hill in Australia is the world's second biggest silver mine. Labor in the Peruvian mines was almost exclusively provided by the indigenous population. The “Imperial Villa of Potosi” was on a barren plateau devoid of everything needed for life and work. The “union ibérico” of the crowns of Spain and Portugal lasted until 1640. At Potosi there were 120 processing mills in 1658. The Atlantic crossing took five to six weeks on average. The sheer amount of silver produced mind boggling. The Silver Mine at Potosí. Galleries were haphazard, airless, and full of dust, and few miners escaped permanent crippling from mercury poisoning. A city was established there by the fifth viceroy of Peru, Francisco Alvarez de Toledo, in 1572, who called the new settlement “Vila Rica de Oropesa” after his title and his hometown in Castile. See. The siege of La Paz in early 1781 was led by an indigenous rebel who called himself Tupac Katari. But in fact, the Manila Galleons, many built in the Philippines, were huge ships that combined the carrying capacity of carracks with the maneuverability and speed of caravels, reaching 2,000 tones, and carrying at times silver to the value of two and a half million silver pesos. Silver was critical to European trade with the Orient. Grapes and dried fish were sent from the Pacific coast. In 1565 a fleet system took on a regular form. This centuries-old mine remained hidden beneath a hotel bar until 2013. The city came into existence after the discovery of silver there in 1545 and quickly became famous for its wealth. Hispanic Society of America, Ottoman illustration of the Cerro Rica of Potosi from Tarih-l Hind-l. Carbi, manuscript, ca 1582, The Newberry Library, Chicago, Dams at Potosi. Competition to Spanish domination arose from the Protestant Dutch and from the French and from the English in Europe and in Asia and in the Americas. He was the only viceroy to visit Potosi. ". Over the centuries, approximately 60,000 tons of … The voyage took from four to six months and the loss among the crews was as high as thirty to forty percent. In the viceroyalty of Peru, Huancavelica and Potosi, were over 1000 miles apart. Coca Vendor, Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, ca. Dams at Potosi, de Orsua y Vela Bartolome, História de la Villa Imperial de Potosi, 3 Vols, Edited by Lewis Hanke and Gunnar Mendoza, Providence, R.I. Brown University Press, 1965, Coca Traders at Potosi. It was once used as a classroom to teach mining skills to local high school students. In effect it created the first global currency of exchange, the “pieces of eight” each with the mark “P” for the Potosi Mint established by the Viceroy of Peru (1569-1581), Francisco Alvares de Toledo, in 1574. "If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking. Afloat the Erie Canal: A Self-Led Houseboat Adventure, Science in the Field: Tracking Wild Bumblebees in Sequoia, Rewilding: Tracking Wolves in the Forests of Sweden, A Bat's Life w/ Dr. Laura Kloepper: The Bat Hawk, Monster of the Month with Colin Dickey: The Bell Witch Legend, Niigata Rice Cracker Museum & Bakauke Inari, The Sandwich Scandal at the Heart of the World’s Greatest Golfing Event, The Carnivore Paradise That Keeps Changing the Story of Human Evolution, The Puzzling Provenance of Historic Hebrew Type, In Thailand, Traditional Cannabis Cuisine Is Back on the Menu, Behold Brine Shrimp, the Livestock of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Meet the Experimental Violinist Forging Her Own Path, How a Blacksmith in Jordan Created His Own Sign Language, In Naples, Praying With Skulls Is an Ancient Tradition, Torotoro National Park Dinosaur Footprints, Paseo Túnel Minería Durango (Durango Mining Tunnel Walk), http://www.lonelyplanet.com/bolivia/the-southwest/potosi/history, http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/devilsminer/mountain.html, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/oct/02/bolivia-potosi-mountain-silver-mining, http://www.npr.org/2012/09/25/161752820/bolivias-cerro-rico-the-mountain-that-eats-men.

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