Bolivia: 4090 ... like dust.
At 4090 meters above sea level, in Bolivia, in the center of the Andes, thousands of people live of mining. Cold, rain, snow, dust and a lot of solitude. Humans share their lives with archaic figures like "El Tio". This mining goddess presides over every tunnel entrance. The miners offering him coca leaves, cigarettes, alcool to recive fotune... with the gaze limited by deep shadows and the bleak breath due to the lack of oxygen the miners go down into the bowels of the mountain.
Recently, the Bolivian government intervened with Law No. 548 on "Ninos y ninas y adolescentes Trabajadores" to protect and regulate in some way the child labor. Approved in July 2014, the law aims to adapt the constraints of international conventions on child labor to the needs of subsistence due to the country's deep poverty. This law establishes the minimum age of minor workers in 12 years and defines what activities are forbidden for adolescents. Mines of silver, copper, zinc, lead, asbestos and lithium are a great resource for Bolivia. It is not uncommon to meet young miners in the depths of the earth: men, children, boys like dust grains in the tunnels of Cerro Rico, Potosí, Bolivia.
As in all precarious structures, day after day is the lifestyle in Bolivian mining society. "Peones" are called the miners who work for a daily salary. Working as peones requires job tools, each one must have its own: picks, bats, breathing filters, helmets and snow. No jobs can be found without their tools, mining companies do not make it available. All peones leave a place in their wardrobe for their beloved instruments. Every aspect of everyday life is made of some kind of precariousness. Meals are frugal and fast, usually boiled wheat, a small portion of chicken and some vegetables. With a few bolivianos (national currency) each peony can eat in the workers market. Being a miner also means preparing dynamite for digging, maybe together, father and son. Each spark plug is carefully prepared, each ignition must provide the time needed to evacuate the tunnels space demolished by the explosion. You can not afford to be wrong. Each dynamite candle is cut out of the desired length, as well as the fuse. The hardness of the stone, the volume of the wall to be demolished, nothing is left to chance. "Experience" and familiarity, the same one like the one need to cut bread during dinner. Being children, even after hours of tunnels with dust and clay hands, can not stop the instincts of their age. So play with their brothers, simply with two tires, one car and one bicycle, and then rolling through gravel paths or playing musical instruments, following the passion for football, the ones for motorcycles, with a few friends and last but not least a lot of beer. Premature male mortality is very high for mining-related illnesses. Survival of widows, violence against women, early pregnancy, rape, illiteracy and alcoholism are just some of the other deep wounds of a young, precarious and poor society. The entire Potosy economy, 250,000 inhabitants, is connected to the mines: markets, hardware, pharmacies, salt and tobaccos, public transport drivers, merchants, equipment vendors, coke leaf vendors, mechanics, but also priests: everyone at the service of the community. 4090 meters above sea level ... as dust.