Now, let me tell you about Potosí.

Potosí is the highest city in the world. It finds its fortune in the hills and mountains all around it that are full of silver and gold. When the Spanish came here a couple hundred years ago, the natives generously and kindly showed them exactly where to find all the booty. And all of a sudden, Potosí became the center of the world! Richer than Paris, Madrid, and New York, Potosí was the place to be. All the posh world citizens sailed over to this treacherous landscape to make their homes. All around are the relics of colonial Latin America- wide open courtyards, cobble stone streets, even the most stylish clothing of the era remain the hippest digs nowadays. (All those women in strange bowler hats and shiny metallic skirts? The newest fashion in Paris when the Spanish came over here). It´s a great place. And it´s also the poorest city in Bolivia these days! The irony! (is that even irony? I don´t know why saying that felt appropriate).

The thing to do if you´re a tourist is to go down inside the cooperative mines of Potosí. These mines are chaotic. Because they are no longer private, anyone off the street can buy dynamite and start blowing up shit anywhere they want! Crazy! Children as young as 9 go down inside the mines to help their fathers. It´s a hellish place, aspestos covering the walls looks like silver, the heat is stifling, and the dust fills your lungs. Unfortunately, the ATM had eaten my card the night before and I spent an hour in the morning waiting for the bank to give it to me while they were taking their sweet time. I missed the chance to go down in to the mines! Blast! Oh well, maybe I´ll have a chance to do that someday. Apparently it´s really dangerous to go down there anyways because of the random explosions that have haphazardly constructed the mine. It could collapse at any second!

I can´t believe how lucky I am! It just so happens that I had a free ride down here with Jaime´s dad and his friends, who are all geologists. They advise the miners about what is safe. One of the friends of Jaime´s dad is named Christian. He is an awesome guy who laughs with his whole body and smiles all of the time. His family has been in Potosí ever since the arrival of the Spanish. He has a french last name, even though he is Bolivian. He casually invited us to a barbeque at his place one night at a bar in Potosí. I had no idea what to expect, but I was psyched about the free food.

It soon became apparent that this would be NO ORDINARY place! His house is the oldest colonial house in Bolivia, Still in perfect condition from the 16th century (!). It is outstandingly beautiful. I felt like I did not belong in such a beautiful place. Each room in this place has its own ghost- and every generation of his family is buried there, under the floor of the chapel. WHAT a magical place! Right next to the house is a stream with pure water fed from underneath a neighboring mountain.

Christian is the BEST guy. All the time he was practically force-feeding us food and drink- DELICIOUS food and drink, wine from the middle of the mountains and barbeque cooked over his amazing grill, his own invention (he´s a mad scientist!). I found out that he owns a mine, and that his workers get 50% of the profit while most others in the area only get 20%.  We ate at the same table that presidents of Boliva and liberators of South America have eaten. I felt so honored!

Ghosts? I didn´t see any! I woke up in the middle of the night for no reason, and I thought that a ghost might have been trying to get my attention. After ten minutes of trying to summon all the ghosts in to my room, I was too sleepy to care and I went back to bed.

By the way- I saw the most beautiful night sky I have ever seen, or probably will ever see, in my whole life. Potosí is the highest city in the world, and without lights I could see more stars than I could have ever imagined possible. The milky way stretched from horizon to horizon, and the whole sky looked cloudy with the innumerous clusters of stars. Sometimes I can´t believe that I´m going to school in the city next year. What are we thinking with all the light pollution! Come on!

Advertisements