Down the Potosí mines

This is a grievous place. These conditions are worse then the days when the Spanish forced Indians to work these mines in the 18th century. These days there is less fresh air as there are no vertical air shafts.

As you descend, the air becomes stuffier, dustier and a lot hotter. These men work eight-hour shifts, continuously pushing ton-heavy trolleys, or digging, or lifting, or pick-axeing. One fit-looking member of our tour group tried to do some shovelling and nearly expired after two minutes. The miners eat nothing all day and live off wads of coca .

At least they are
all self-employed or belong to co-operatives. If one of them strikes it rich, which happens from time to time, they will retire within months. But if they stay for 15 years or more, as many do, they usuall die of silicosis, few making it beyond the age of 50.

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