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South America Destination Guide

Potosi

Potosi Potosi City (pop., 2001: 132,966), southwestern Bolivia. Founded in 1545 after the discovery of silver in a neighbouring mountain, it grew to be the most populous city in Latin America. After the mid-17th century, its population declined drastically when silver production waned but expanded in the l9th-20th century with the introduction of other industries, including tin mining. One of the highest cities in the world, at an elevation of about 13,700 ft (4,200 m), it is a major Bolivian industrial Centre. The historic city was designated a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE in 1987.

Potosi, the highest city in the world, is located in the Eastern Cordillera in the "Bolivian tin belt".Potosi having rich deposits of precious metals, mostly silver, lead, zinc, and copper.Potosi has at turns been cursed, blessed, rich and depressed by its renowned silver deposits. The city was founded in 1545, following the discovery of ore in silver rich Cerro Rico, the hill overlooking town.Tin is a major target of the mining efforts today.

Superlative buffs will appreciate Potosi's ranking as the world's highest city, an inyour face fact when you're laboring up the streets or shivering with cold at night.

The veins proved so rich that the mines quickly became the world's most prolific and Potosi, at a staggering altitude of 4070m, grew into Latin America's largest and wealthiest city. Millions of conscripted laborers were put to work in the mines both indigenous people and imported African slaves. Conditions were (and remain) appalling, with as many as eight million workers dying from accidents and diseases or from contact with toxic chemicals during the three centuries of colonial rule.

In the early 19th century, good times turned bad when silver production began to wane. Nowadays, a demand for tin keeps Potosi, alive, though small scale silver extraction continues. Echoes of the once grand colonial city reverberate through the narrow streets, bouncing from the formal balconied mansions and ornate churches.

The vendors who sell dynamite, coca leaves, alcohol, and cigarettes are the most profitable in Potosi, unlike other cities, where tourism takes priority. Potosi has its share of tourism as well, as Potosi once served as the coin production headquarters for Bolivia, as well as Spain.

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