Cerro Rico: Devil worship on the man-eating mountain

The 500-year-old mines of Bolivia’s Cerro Rico mountain produced the silver that once made the Spanish empire rich. Now riddled with tunnels, the mountain is a death trap for the men and boys who work there – and who pray to the devil to keep them safe.

In a dingy tunnel, Marco shovels rocks into a wheelbarrow, covered in dust and sweat. He’s expected to carry 35 to 40 loads to the surface during a five-hour shift, often working at night so he can go to school during the day.

Marco’s mother and her four children moved to Cerro Rico, the Rich Hill, after their father abandoned them. They live at the entrance of a tunnel, without any running water, using an abandoned mine as a bathroom.

“I want to be something better, not work in the mine… I’d like to get a degree, to be a lawyer,” he says. But for now the family would not survive without his earnings.

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Cerro Rico

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