Print Archive Item

Cerro de Potosí
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Print from a copper engraving by Jodocus Hondius showing the Cerro Rico, or “rich mountain,” at Potosí, first edition. The Cerro Rico, at 4000 meters elevation in the Andes Mountains, was a virtual mountain of silver, and it was one of the larger sources of Spain’s wealth in the Americas. The silver was first revealed to the Spanish in 1545, and afterwards the city of Potosí quickly grew at the base of the mountain. By 1600, nearly 100,000 people lived there, all dependent on the lucrative mining industry. This image shows miners scaling the face of the mountain and a variety of buildings alongside a stream. The flowing water was used to power the city’s many silver processing mills. The print was originally black and white but was hand-colored at an unknown later date.