el tio - the spirit of the mine

In the mines of highland Bolivia, "El Tío" is the familiar name for the spirit owner of the mountain, who is also known as Huari or Supay.­ The words "El Tío" are Spanish for "the uncle" and evince the relationship of patronage that the miners have with the spirit.­ He is associated with pre-Hispanic nature spirits as well as the Christian Devil and is a central figure in the ritual life of Bolivian mining communities.­ An icon of El Tío is situated in each mineshaft to receive sacrificial offerings of alcohol, coca, cigarettes, llama blood and other ritual items from the miners in return for his goodwill and his guarantee of good health and good fortune in the mines.­

For more information, read en.­citizendium.­org/­wiki/­El_­T%C3%ADo

Candelaria silver mine - Potosi (Bolivia)

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Ruta Nacional 1, Potosi, Bolivia

The Candelaria mine is one of the oldest silver mines of Potosí, and it has been active for more than 200 years.­

But the rich silver ore veins are long gone, and the remaining ore contains less than 15% of silver and various other metals.­

Working in mines like this one is probably one of the worst job on earth.­ The air is thin because of the high altitude, and in the mine, the air is very bad, loaded with thick rock dust and chemical fumes from blasted dynamite.­ It is hot and cramped, the galleries are narrow, steep, dangerous, poorly maintained and often cave in.­ there is no electricity, no water, no ventilation, no safety or communication equipment, and most of the work is done with manual tools (picks, hammers, wheelbarrow).­

After spending a few hours in this mine, just walking around and taking photos, I was drained and I just wanted out.­

Photos taken in Bolivia in February and March 2010.­

Related series:

- Uyuni Train Cemetery (Bolivia).

- Silver Mine - Potosí (Bolivia).

- Argentina.

- Chile.