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(pōtōsē`), city (1992 pop. 112,078), capital of Potosí dept., S Bolivia, at the foot of one of the world's richest ore mountains. In the cold, bleak, high Andes at an altitude of c.13,780 ft (4,200 m), Potosí is one of the highest cities in the world. There is no agriculture in the region. Potosí was founded in 1545 and during its first 50 years was the most fabulous source of silver the world had ever known. Because of isolation, living discomfort, and a series of disasters, such as the flood of 1626, the mines proved unable to compete with those of Peru and Mexico. Improved technology and communications, however, have made possible the exploitation of silver, as well as tin, lead, and copper, and the revival of commercial life. Furniture, beverages, electrical equipment, and mosaics are manufactured. The city's colonial landmarks include the Mint House, a replica of Spain's Escorial. Potosí's university was founded in 1571.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city in southern Bolivia, located on the slopes of Cerro Rico (Cerro de Potosí) in the Andes, at an elevation of 4,200 m. Capital of Potosí Department. Population, 96,800 (1970). It has a railroad station.

Potosí was founded by Spanish Conquistadors in December 1546 on the site where, in the previous year, an extensive deposit of silver had been discovered. In the 17th and the first half of the 18th century, Potosi’s mines provided approximately one-half of the world silver output, while its population grew to more than 160,000 (1650). As a result of the rapacious exploitation and exhaustion of the silver deposits, the city began declining in the second half of the 18th century. In 1825 it had a population of only 8,000. In the 20th century, Potosí has become the center of an important region for the mining of tin, wolfram, and antimony ores. There is little silver mining. The city has enterprises for the production of metal articles, soft drinks, beer, leather goods, and furniture. It has a university, which was founded in 1892.

Most of the buildings in Potosí are two story, for example, the home of the marquesses de Otavi (now the National Bank, 1750–85). Many of the structures were designed by Indian master craftsmen. Still standing are the baroque churches of San Lorenzo (c. 1548; facade, 1728–44), San Francisco (1548; facade 1707–26), and La Compañía (1590; facade and bell tower, 1700–07). Other important buildings include the mint (now the National Museum, 1759–73) and a cathedral in the classical style (1809–36).


Ibáñez, G. Potosí. La Paz, 1941.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.