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Southern Bolivia Travel Guide

Potosí

Potosí has a split and tragic personality. Its soaring churches and opulent mansions call to mind a time when this was the wealthiest city in South America. The sagging roofs and crumbling facades make it difficult to put the town's painful past and difficult present out of your mind.

Silver, tin, and zinc from nearby Cerro Rico made fortunes for the mineral barons who built

their grand homes along Potosí's winding cobblestone streets. Tens of thousands of people flocked here hoping to make a little money. In 1650, with a population topping 160,000, Potosí was the largest and most prosperous city, first on the continent and then in the world, and the Spanish even now describe things of great value as "worth a potosí." But that wealth came from the labor of more than 8 million indigenous people forced to work in the mines, most of whom died there.

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