The Silver Slaves

In 1544 Diego Huallpa, a local Inca, was walking across a mountain in the central highlands of Bolivia searching for an escaped llama. In the evening he built a fire which, so the legend goes, became so hot that the earth beneath it started to melt and a shiny liquid oozed from the ground.  A year later the Spanish Conquistadors learned of this enormous wealth, founded the city of Potosi, named the mountain Cerro Rico, “rich hill” and began large-scale excavations.  For centuries it bank-rolled the Spanish empire with vast quantities of silver and Potosi, which at 4070m is one of the highest cities in the world, became one of the wealthiest. Continue reading

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