#Bolivia - a miner sorting rocks deep inside the world’s largest silver mine known as ‘Cerro Rico’ (Rich Mountain) in Potosi, southern Bolivia.
Posting this week @smithsonianmagazine This is Part 2 of my trip (yesterday morning) into the dark somewhat disturbing world of Bolivian silver miners. As mentioned in the previous image, I was accompanied by ex-miner 'Freddy’ who spent years in this mountain and still describes it as 'the job from hell’ though also quickly adds that for the 15,000 men who work daily inside the mountain, there is the chance to hit a jackpot seam of silver-which is what happened to him ten years back. 'I was lucky and so are my wife and children’ he says as we walked further into the huge mountain. He then tells me that when this 'silver mountain’ was discovered back in the 1580’s, it coincided exactly with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors to the Americas. 'They got lucky too! Without this mine and this silver, there might have never been Spanish colonization. They created a mint in town to make the coins then they packed mules and llamas and walked them to the coast 300 miles away where the money was shipped to fund the expansion of their South American conquest. They did this every day for over 200 years’ says Freddy as we continue walking thru the labyrinth of dark tunnels. We finally reached an area where miners were working - and chewing on bags of coca leaves. 'They all chew the coca’ says Freddy, 'it gives them energy’ as we offer some sodas to the men who I wish to photograph. The work is back-breaking hard - the ones we saw were packing one ton trolleys with shiny ore and then pushing it back to the mine entrance some 25 minutes away. Freddy then shows me a shrine that has a painted large figurine of the Diablo (devil) on it - 'Before you work, every miner offers their diablo a small gift - a few coca leaves usually. Down here, this is the diablo’s world and we are taking riches from him’ explains Freddy who then places some leaves at the foot of the shrine, 'Inside the mine, no-one is allowed to mention Jesus or God- ONLY when you leave the mountain’. #photograph @clarkegiles #silver #mining #Smithsonian #travel