Touring Bolivia’s Cerro Rico, the Mountain that Eats Men

In The Fray

Potosi in the foreground, Cerro Rico in the background

The view of Cerro Rico from the city of Potosí in May. fabian.kron, via Flickr

The silver that made Potosí fabulously wealthy is now all but gone, but miners still toil in the Bolivian city’s nearby mines in search of minerals vital to global supply chains. In recent years, locals have promoted a kind of “danger tourism”—guided tours of the sprawling and still lethal Cerro Rico complex—as another employment option in a region with very few, but critics say it draws too many voyeurs and thrill-seekers.

It’s one of the most grueling, dangerous jobs on Earth. Workers at the Cerro Rico mines near Potosí, Bolivia, toil from dawn till dusk in constricted, dust-filled passages, knowing they might die at any moment and likely will never reach middle age. Now, Cerro Rico has become a leading tourist attraction—despite the risks, the plight of the miners, and the downward spiral of a community that has fallen far from past wealth and glory.

“It’s like going to the zoo, looking at animals,” said Julio Morales, an ex-miner turned mining tour operator turned activist, who believes the visits are getting out of hand. “The mines are not a game.”

Read the full article in In The Fray magazine.