I Am Rich Potosí
The Mountain that Eats Men (Stephen Ferry, The Monacelli Press, 1999)
I Am Rich Potosí, a book of documentary photography, reveals one of the darkest episodes of Latin American history. Along with 88 finely printed color plates, the work includes an introductory essay by Eduardo Galeano, historical quotes and engravings, and excerpts from Stephen Ferry's journal.
Once world-famous, Potosí is now a forgotten city 16,000 feet up in the desert highlands of Bolivia. Few people know that for almost 250 years (1573-1815) Potosí was the focal point of the genocidal treatment of the Andean peoples, a forced labor camp where over three million indigenous men were compelled by their Spanish colonial masters to work and die inside the Rich Mountain; and few people are aware that these Quechua and Aymara slaves extracted from Potosí such fantastic quantities of silver that they ultimately affected the course of world history.
I Am Rich Potosí looks closely at the fascinating culture of the present-day miners of Potosi, who work deep within the mountain that was the tomb of their ancestors. In their labor, daily life, sacrificial ceremonies, and festivals, these thousands of miners and their families re-enact and interpret their plight in richly symbolic ways, demonstrating not only the tragedy of their past, but also the heroism of their cultural resistance to destruction. Over a period of eight years, Stephen Ferry returned many times to Potosí, the poorest place in all of Latin America, seeking to understand its grief and its raw beauty, and to communicate its importance to the outside world.
A selection of images from I Am Rich Potosi was awarded the 1992 World Press Photo prize, the highest honor in photojournalism.
To see images and text from I Am Rich Potosí, please click on the link below.
As reviewed in Library Journal:
Freelance photojournalist Ferry has made numerous trips to Potosi, the magnificent Bolivian mountain that has yielded more silver than any other mountain region of the world. In the 16th and 17th centuries, this wealth went to Spain and Europe at a tremendous cost to the indigenous population: Indians were enslaved by the Spanish and died by the thousands in the mountain. Today, approximately 18,000 miners work in the mountain, living in one of the poorest places in South America. These photos reveal their life and work. With an introductory text by the eminent Uruguayan historian Eduardo Galeano and excerpts from Ferry's own journal, I Am Rich Potosí illuminates the complexity of cultural intersection and the grandeur of the mountain. These beautiful, full-page photographs provide both a historical record and a passionate denunciation. Recommended for large public, academic, and specialized collections.-- Sylvia Andrews, Indiana State Lib.
I Am Rich Potosí (The Monacelli Press, 1999) is available at major bookstores or from barnesandnoble.com or Amazon.com for $31.50 (160pp, 88 color plates, hardbound, printed in Italy):
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