Little Bits of History

Getting High

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 1, 2015
Rich Hill*

Rich Hill*

April 1, 1545: Potosi, Bolivia is founded. It is one of the highest cities in the world, by elevation. Year round residency is required to make this list and La Rinconada in Peru is the highest city in the world with 30,000 people living at an elevation of 16,700 feet. Argentina boasts eleven cities or villages in the higher elevations and Bolivia has five with Colquechaca as the highest small town in the country. El Alto is also higher in elevation and has a population of nearly 900,000 living there. Potosi is at 13,420 feet elevation is the capital of the department of Potosi in Bolivia and has around 250,000 residents.

The town was founded when the industry in the area proved to be profitable. It is at the base of a mountain sometimes called Cerro Rico or Rich Mountain. The mountain was thought to be made of silver ore. The Spaniards mined the mountain and shipped the silver by llama and mule train to the Pacific coast where it went to Panama City and then was shipped home to Spain. It soon led to fabulous wealth for those living there and population rose to around 200,000. The riches to be had at Potosi were so great that it is mentioned in Miguel de Cervantes’ famous novel, Don Quixote. Natives were used to mine the ore under harsh conditions and many of them died in the mines. The Incan tradition of mita, mandatory public service for the Inca Empire, was exploited and one-tenth of laborers were forced.

The city is located in the Bolivian Tin Belt and the mountain rising above it is the world’s largest silver deposit. During the 450 years the mountain was mined for silver, about 60,000 tonnes were extracted. It is believed that much silver remains to be mined. Potosi grew to be the second largest city in the Americas and was the site of the first mint on this side of the Atlantic. By 1891, as silver prices dropped, the mines shifted to mining tin which continued until 1985. During peak production in the 16th and 17th centuries, ore pulled from the mine was 40% silver. The ore runs in veins and the mountain is now honeycombed with underground workings reaching 3,770 feet below the surface.

Because of the elevation of the city, its climate is somewhat rare for a city of its size. It is a combination of subtropical highland climate with subpolar oceanic characteristics along with an alpine climate. The warmest months average about ⁰F 50 while the highest temperatures are about ⁰F mid-60s. There is little rainfall throughout the year. René Joaquino Cabrera is the Mayor of the 45 square mile city. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for cultural reasons. Mining remains the basis for its economy. There are three mining town in the US named Potosi in the hopes the mines would be silver producers. The Wisconsin and Missouri mines produced lead. The Nevada mine really did have a silver lining.

Corn is a necessary, silver is only a superfluity. – Adam Smith

Beauty attracts us men; but if, like an armed magnet it is pointed, beside, with gold and silver, it attracts with tenfold power. – Jean Paul

Silver and gold are not the only coin; virtue too passes current all over the world. – Euripides

Genius without education is like silver in the mine. – Benjamin Franklin

Also on this day: Money, American style – In 1778, the $ was invented.
Hitler Jailed – In 1924, Hitler was sentenced to serve a jail term.
Wrigley Company – In 1891, the soap and baking powder company was founded.
Spaghetti Trees – In 1957, the BBC played and April Fool’s trick.
Worth Every Penny – In 1853, firefighters were first given a salary.

* “Cerro ricco” by Original uploader was Mhwater at nl.wikipedia – Eigen foto. Originally from nl.wikipedia; description page is/was here. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –


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