POTOSI, BOLIVIA

Surrealism

It’s such an incredibly appealing thing to see so many grand colonial buildings that have been left behind; left to weather over the course of hundreds of years... There’s something about the intricacies of their design and the mystery of the life it housed from many years ago.

Take a look at this (literally) breathtaking Bolivian city of Potosi; a place that was once one of the richest of all in the Americas after a local Incan stumbled upon what shaped Potosi’s future – silver. Stroll through its ancient streets that are lined with ornate churches and the colorful, crumbling colonial buildings that provides you a glimpse into the city’s past. See the intriguing mix of success, struggle, grandeur, and decay.

Salar de Uyuni

Surreal. Some say Salvador Dali got his inspiration from the desert. Others say the desert got ideas from Salvador Dali. Frankly, the people who say the latter are most likely high. Come have a look at the giant mirror of the sky; the world’s largest sea flat of Salar de Uyuni! Definitely come during the rainy season and take spectacular pictures of yourself walking on water, or clouds... Looking for another place to calm your mind nearby? You can also sit surrounded by numerous yellow and golden brown shrubs by the Laguna Canapa; a lagoon amongst three volcanos named Caquena, Tapaquillcha and Canapa...

Perhaps the city’s star attraction (listed amongst South America’s finest museums), the National Mint of Bolivia spans an entire city block that was built two centuries ago… The silver extracted from the mountain flows thought its way to Spain, and then to the world. First constructed in 1572, the mint is now a museum that houses many original pieces of equipment and machinery used for the whole minting process, exhibited with a host of historical treasures, coins, and other silver artifacts highlighting the workings of the mint from the manual slave era, through to the steam era, all the way to the modern day electrically driven production lines.

National Mint of Bolivia
Potosi, Bolivia

Home to a number of beautiful convents and churches, Potosi is blessed with many that have undergone restoration, as they date as far back as 1547. Wander north of the town to Plaza del Estudiane, and feast your eyes at the La Capilla de Nuestra Senora de Jerusalen. The ornate church is built on the edge of a shaded square, and you can also walk to a tiny local market located on  one of the little side streets nearby! Pack your phrasebook, wear a smile, and pick up a couple of pieces of fresh fruit or a bag of coca leaves when you’re there.

"The intriguing mix of success, struggle, grandeur, and decay."

At its past productive apex, Potosi’s Cerro Rico mine churned out enough silver to account for half of the world’s supply, making it almost single-handedly responsible for funding Spain’s expansion in Latin America. Although these miners no longer die by the millions through mercury contact as they did in the early colonial times, many still die young of silicosis (black lung), which is why many “make the best of what they have and enjoy life which is why festivals and celebrations are so important”. 

Cerro Rico Mine

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