Potosi, Bolivia

General Information

Regional secretariat

None

Administrative status

Chief city of the Department of Potosi.

City of Potosi

Registration Year

1987

Historical function

Mining.

Location and site

In the Andes mountain range and below the Cerro Rico which dominates it from the south, Potosi is situated at 4,000 m. above sea level.

Urban morphology

Potosi is composed of five reservoirs and their dams, a royal mine, about 5,000 other mines, and the city itself. From 1572 on, the urban plan developed according to the “Law of the Indies,” and its street grid, which surrounds a central square, is particularly regular.

The central square is bordered by Baroque and Metis facades. The Cathedral, like many other monuments, was reconstructed in the 18th century. The mint, also reconstructed in the 18th century, constituted the largest civic monument in South America. The Cathedral of Lorenzo, completed in 1548, is one of the oldest Metis architectural works in Potosi. The 14 provinces that surround the city are represented by 14 Indian quarters.

Registration criteria

“The ‘imperial city’ of Potosi […] exerted lasting influence on the development of architecture and monumental arts in the central region of the Andes by spreading the forms of a Baroque style incorporating Indian influences.” (II) “Potosi is the one example par excellence of a major silver mine in modern times. […] The whole production chain is conserved, along with the dams, aqueducts, milling centres and kilns. The social context is equally well represented […].” (IV) “Potosi is directly and intangibly associated with an event of outstanding universal significance: the economic change brought about in the 16th century by the flood of Spanish currency resulting from the massive import of precious metals in Seville.” (VI)

Historical reference

  • After the discovery, between 1542 and 1545, of the most important silver mines in the New World, Potosi experienced rapid growth. At the time, the territory known today as Bolivia had been ruled by Spanish authorities since 1538; in 1543 it became part of the Vice-Royalty of Peru.
  • In 1572, the Vice-King Francisco de Toledo put an end to the disorganized exploitation that characterized the first rush towards the mines and replaced it with the introduction of new technical procedures and the establishment of the “mita,” a corv‚e system forced upon the Indians. The city of Potosi and its mines experienced a boom.
  • Around 1580, when the mines reached full production, the industrial infrastructure included a total of 22 dikes and about a hundred crushers. This was the beginning of Potosi’s heyday, which continued into the 17th century. In South America, the city’s prosperity extended as far as the port cities of Buenos Aires and Lima. Potosi’s mines also played a crucial role in the European economy.

Contact

Lic. Williams Cervantes

Alcalde
Alcaldía de Potosí

Plaza 10 de Noviembre, N° 1923 Casilla N° 95
Potosí, Bolivia

+00591.2 6223143/140
alcalde@potosi.bo

Sra. Rosalin Aguirre Menacho

Directora de Turismo
Secretaría de desarrollo turístico cultural y patrimonial, Gobierno autónomo municipal de Potosí

rosalin_aguirrem@hotmail.com

Arq. Erland Ovando Leiton

Jefe del Departamento Patrimonio Histórico
Patrimonio Histórico Ayuntamiento de Potosí

Plaza 10 de Noviembre s/n
Potosí, Bolivia

+591.62 27408