When Yoli and traveled the Andean cities in Bolivia in 2005, we visited a mine museum in the city of Oruro. We learned many things and actually climbed through an old mine shaft.
I had been tempted by the idea of visiting a real, active mine in the mountain Cerro Rico when we traveled to the city of Potosi, but it didn’t work out.
A few weeks ago, Yoli discovered a special program would air on PBS about children working in the mines of Cerro Rico.
The documentary is called The Devil’s Miner. It follows a 14-year-old boy named Basilio who works at a mine in Cerro Rico. Because his father died years before, he had to go to the mines to earn money for his family. But he also attends school. He hopes to educate himself and to get out of the mines into a better job later in life.
But the statistics are against him. Most miners never leave the industry. Worse, most die early in life (the average age is 35-40), either from accidents or long-term exposure to dust and gases.
You get to see all facets of the Bolivian miners’ lives, from the poor conditions, to chewing coca leaves, to making offerings to “El Tio.”
If you get a chance, watch this documentary. The story is somewhat sad, but it is real.