the size of France
covers some 386,000 square miles and its population is estimated at less than
four million people. (Comparable figures for Britain are 43,000 square miles and
50 million people.
this population, 72 per cent live between 6 ½ and 15 ½ thousand
feet above sa-level, in an area probably about one quarter of the whole country.
This is the highland of the Altiplano and south to the mining districts around
was once the richest city of the Americas. In 1611 it had 160,000 inhabitants
and some of the richest silver mines the world has seen. In nearly 300 years the
Spaniards took out an estimated two billion dollars worth of silver.
the city has a population of only 40,000 and the best grade ore is no longer found.
has the most famous mine in Bolivia, the Cerro Rico. It stands like a huge slag-heap
on the outskirts of the city; and on closer examination it is apparent that this
is what it really is.
has 5,000 entrances and the refuse from the mining now covers the whole of the
original hill, in fact the hill has been turned inside out.
gave out at the end of the last century, but it is now mined for tin. Production
has dropped, but new seams are now being opened, and it is expected shortly to
start working the once despised reject ore which is in fact low grade tin.
went down a tin mine, fitted out with helmets and battery lamps. Here, engineers
are striving to discover new methods for extracting the low grade ores - economic
limit is one per cent for the old method and 0.8 per cent for the newer techniques.
it is difficult to find enough fresh seams. And the machinery, particularly, the
washing plant, is very old.
cage mechanism had broken down that morning, and we were the first to descent
after repair. A fast drop of 600 feet under these conditions was not a happy experience,
but fortunately the repair was successful, and the cage worked properly.
we went down a further 120 feet two at a time in a bucket; that was even less
amusing. The galleries were very long due to the extensive working.
the centre was the God of the Mine, a seated Mephistopholean figure, garlanded
with flowers and blackened by the smoke from offerings burnt before him.
Indians are very superstitious and before opening up a new seam will pour libations
and generally propitiate Pacha Mama, Mother Earth, in the manner of their Inca
Potosi we went to Sucre, the original capital of the country. In fact it is still
a capital, since Bolivia has two.
the rising importance of La Paz at the end of last century, Sucre's position as
capital was challenged.
Sucrenese sent their finest regiment to La Paz; but tradition says that during
an overnight camp in a village, the local priest organised the villagers, who
massacred the soldiers.
La Paz is the seat of the Government and Sucre the capital for legal matters.
is a beautiful little city, with about 30,000 inhabitants in which life revolves
around the university to a large extent.
University of St. Francis Xavier is the oldest in Bolivia (and the second oldest
in the Americas) and was founded in 1624.
had an introduction to the rector who conducted us over the building; we made
tape-recordings of the very fine University Chorus, and visited the interesting
museums of anthropology and folk-art where there are skulls and pottery dating
back to pre-Inca times, and examples of the many different costumers of the Indians.
also saw the fabulous treasures of the Cathedral, many sets of altar pieces in
silver and gold ornamented with enormous precious stones and very old vestments
embroidered with silk.
18th century gold cross liberally patterned with large emeralds caused particular
amazement; but when we had finished gasping at its beauty the priest, with true
showmanship, turned it around - and we saw that the reverse side was blazing with
also possesses probably one of the costliest and most ornate altar statues - the
Virgin of Guadeloupe.
stands high on an altar, surrounded by dozens of huge white lilies in silver vases
and many tall candles in four foot silver candlesticks.
mechanism is unlocked and the metal canopy wound back, and there framed in electric
light bulbs, stands the Virgin, four feet high and dressed in full-skirted ecclesiastic
is of sheet gold and literally covered with enormous precious stones, the emeralds
are worth a fortune, and there are large diamonds, pearls and hundreds of semi-precious
to the statue are offerings collected over the years - jewels, gold watches, ornaments
of various kinds, and one surprising collection of a dozen Victorian half-sovereigns
made into the shape of a heart.
and glittering the statue dominates the altar and the church - its estimated value
is 50 million dollars.
had a little difficulty leaving Sucre since this was the second day of a petrol
strike. No fuel was available at the filling stations and we took our place optimistically
in the long queue of lorries outside the refinery; after some hours the dispute
was settled and we were able to proceed to Santa Cruz.
REPORT 14 part 2