Maxima Limachi holds her youngest son Israel in her arms. On the window ledge stands a photo of her deceased husband. He died at the age of 35 in a mining accident in one of the tunnels of “Cerro Rico”. Since then, Maxima has raised her children alone.
For guarding the mines seven days a week all day long the cooperative pays around 40€ to Maxima and her family. To earn a little more they have to work in the mines themselves from time to time. The seven years old Israel helps to free the cart‘s railway from debris.
Towering over the city of Potosi, Bolivia, the Cerro Rico mountain houses approximately 500 silver mines, 15,000 workers, and 200 families. Having catapulted Spain and the surrounding European territories into an era of prosperity from the mid-1500s onwards, the promise of the mountain began to fade by the 19th century with the vastly decreasing quantities of silver. Today, miners and guards brave the depths of the mines for meager wages, among them women and children.