by Marin Katusa
“For the powerful emperor, for the wise king, this lofty mountain of silver could conquer the world.” – King Felipe II 1561.
Powered by an intricate set of 22 dams, 140 mills churned out silver. It was an impressive feat of engineering given the time. Slaves were forced to carry 25 loads of 100-pound sacks per day.
At an elevation of 13,000 feet, death was a frequent occurrence as pneumonia and respiratory infections were rampant. Legend says you could build a bridge from Potosi to Madrid with all the silver mined, and one back with bones of miners.
The discovery of Cerro Rico (Spanish for “Rich Mountain”) turned a tiny Bolivian village into the 4th largest city in the Christian world in 70 years.
Coined the “first city of capitalism” Potosi was home to the world’s richest silver deposit. Over a 200-year period, 1.4 billion ounces of silver was mined from the region.