Potosi, Bolivia: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
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Potosi is located in the southern region of Bolivia 90 km (56 miles) southwest of Sucre. It is the capital of the Department of Potosi in Bolivia and has been designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, in 1987. It is one of the highest cities in the world perched at a height of 4,050 meters (13,290 feet).
Potosi lies at the foot of the Cerro de Potosi which is widely known as the Cerro Rico or the rich mountain due to the large deposits of silver ore that were found there once upon a time. It was once a booming city and was very famous for its wealth. Within three decades of the discovery of silver in 1545, Potosi became the largest city with a high population of almost 160,000 which later declined around 1650 due to a dip in the production of silver and other calamities like epidemics, floods, etc.
However, after the surge in the tin mining industry there was a growth in the number of inhabitants in Potosi once again. The silver and tin mining still continue to be a major industry in Potosí with lead, antimony and copper mining also contributing in a small way to the economy of the city.
The site still consists of the industrial monuments of the Cerro Rico, where water is provided by an intricate system of aqueducts and artificial lakes.
The extraction of silver ore was based on a mining technique known as patio that was developed in Peru. In this technique, the extraction of silver ore relies on a series of hydraulic mills and mercury amalgamation. The industrial infrastructure comprised of 22 reservoirs (known as lagunas by the natives, from which a forced flow of water produced the hydraulic power to activate the 140 mills (known as ingenios by the natives) to grind the silver ore. The ground ore was then amalgamated with mercury in the earthen kilns at the refractory, molded into bars and stamped with the mark of the Royal Mint before it was taken to Spain.
One can experience the colonial charm in Potosi which boasts of great architecture in its structures like The Casa de la Moneda or the House of Money which was built in the 1570s, the Parish and Monastic churches including the Church of San Lorenzo that was built in the 16th century, the imposing tower of the Society of Jesus (Compañía de Jesús), the Convent of Santa Teresa that was built in 1691 as well as the Tomás Frías Autonomous University that was built in 1892. The Church of San Lorenzo has an ornate Baroque façade whereas the Casa de la Moneda had been rebuilt in the 18th century and now houses a museum of local history that includes early mining machinery, ethnography and art. There is a huge difference between the luxurious Patrician houses and the neighborhoods with the simple rancherias that were inhabited by the workers who were forced to work in the mines.
The narrow streets that are winding in some places originate in the central plaza where one would find the cathedral as well as the main government buildings. Most of the colonial churches have been restored which has resulted in an increase in the number of tourists visiting the city.
Potosi is well connected with highways that can be used to reach La Paz, Oruro, Sucre and Tarija by road.
Due to its extreme elevation, Potosí features a rare climate with chilling temperatures during the winter months and cool, wet summers where the temperature does not cross 20°C. Average temperatures in the warmest month do not cross the 10°C threshold whereas the average temperatures in the winter months are around -4°C.
The home football team of Potosí is the Club Barnin Real Potosí. They play their matches at the multi-purpose Estadio Victor Agustin Ugarte stadium which is the highest stadium in the world with a seating capacity of 32,000.