The dangerous mine
Juan Carlos' life was shaped forever by two different jobs, as depicted in the picture. During his 20s, he worked in one of the biggest mine fields in Bolivia, located in the second highest city in the world, Potosí. He was a miner at “Cerro Rico” (rich mountain) for five long years, where he personally experienced the death of three good friends due to the lack of health conditions and standards inside the mine. The inhalation of toxic dust through the lungs derived from the exploitation of silver and other minerals can cause a disease called silicosis, which already has killed several miners in Potosí.
Juan Carlos quit the mining industry and decided to work in the services sector as a tourist guide, which does not provide him as much money as mining, but at least it guarantees him a healthy life. He can’t afford dying, he says, he needs to support his wife and children with a regular salary.
According to Juan, there’s a lot of “machismo” inside the mines. Young workers don’t even want to wear mouth or nose protectors since that would make them appear “weak” and “pussies”. These people are willing to work even 24 hours a day so to earn more money out of their own extraction. These working shifts are endured almost without any water nor food, just by chewing coke leaves that makes the miners stay awake and reduces hunger. Juan says the mining business, especially in Bolivia, is quite dangerous because it corrupts the poor and provides them with an unique opportunity of gaining lots of money, but at an extremely higher cost: their lives.