Potosi Bolivia

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The good news for today was that the 210 km out of Uyuni to the north and Potosi was paved! There is a 5 Bs toll here too. Leaving the salt we had 20 km of the dirt and then smooth pavement.

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The drive is amazing up and downs between 4200m and 3700m.

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Potosi at 4000 m is one of the highest cities in the world.

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It was founded in 1546 after huge silver deposits were discovered in Cerro Rico. Estimates of between 2 and 8 million indigenous laborers and African slaves perished in the mines in the 300 years of colonial rule. Working conditions in the mine are still terrible and most miners die of silicosis in their 40’s. About 10,000 people still work in the mine. Silver was depleted in the 1800, but other rare metals are mined. Driving in this city is crazy.

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Driving in this city is crazy. The roads are very narrow and some are extremely steep. It is a bit of a rabbit warren. We finally did locate a hotel not to far from the square with very hot water and a heater. We did a small tour of the area on foot and then retreated for a rare evening of English TV!

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The hotel was just up the block from the Convent and Museum of Santa Teresa. The entry fee is 21 Bs or about 3.50$ and photo taking is 1.60$ for an over 2 hour tour in English and is well worth it.

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The Convent was founded in 1685 and is still the home to 6 Carmelite nuns (age 23 to 55), who live in a new building next door. One of them is an architect that has directed the restoration project to convert the old Convent into the museum. The guide was excellent and explained how the wealthy colonial families sent their second daughter into the convent at age 15.

The nuns were allowed to have visits with their families. Before 1962 they could only hear their family, but not see or touch them. After that they removed the barrier so they could see and touch them through the barrier.

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Another way they were prevented from contact with the outside world was these spinning wheels. They were used to pass items to the priests and sell item to the public outside.

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Then you go into the entry room where these girls said their last goodbye to their families and the outside world.

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Entry was allowed only if a dowry was paid and was the equivalent of 100,000 USD in cash, land, real estate, and art. Many of these items are on display.

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The gorgeous gown the girls wore into the convent they reworked into vestments for the priests.

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The building itself is stunning as is the artwork.

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The tour includes the renovated church.

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The nuns spent their entire life inside the convent and are in fact buried here under the floor of the prayer room. The founding nun of the order has a crypt and monument.

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