We arrived in Sucre at night and were involuntarily taken on a tour of the city. Our scheming cab driver “somehow” got lost trying to take us to our hostel that was only one block away from the bus station. He then multiplied his original quote by four, saying the initially quoted price was for “cada uno” (each one). We were frustrated but consider these small gringo taxes reparations for centuries worth of economic exploitation of the south. With this perspective, it becomes difficult to haggle over two dollars.

John and I had begun getting back to our business responsibilities so Calina and Jill did a lot of exploring on their own. At the end of the first day, the girls came back to the hostel with a bounty of food products from their first experience in a Bolivian supermarket. These finds, coupled with fresh veggies from the local farmer’s market, made for a delicious feast of tacos, homemade salsa, guacamole and re-fried beans.

That night, Calina and I went to an über-gringo bar called Joy Ride Cafe that was screening the documentary, The Devil’s Miner. The movie follows the lives of two Bolivian brothers aged 14 and 10 who are miners in the suffocating Cerro Rico of Potosi. This tragic film highlights the dangers these miners face every day, from poisonous gasses to random explosions, not to mention the common fate that unites them all: death from silicosis within 10 years of entering the mines.

In the film, we learned about Tio, a god that was invented by the Spaniards to scare the indigenous people into continuing to work in the mines. The Spanish told them that if they refused to work, this god, or Dio, would punish them. The indigenous, who don’t pronounce ‘d’ turned Dio into Tio, and to this day statues of Tio can be found throughout the mines. Each Tio is surrounded by coca leaves, alcohol and other offerings given by the miners in exchange for protection and luck in uncovering high-grade silver, tin and zinc.

After watching the film, we felt conflicted. A part of us felt that we had missed out by not visiting the mines in Potosi but another part of us compared the mine tours to the favela tours of Rio de Janeiro. We imagined ourselves being paraded in front of the suffering masses, calously taking photos and enjoying one day amongst a misery that lasts the miners’ whole lives. There are better ways of helping these kids.

The next day we checked out the Dinosaur Park. We boarded the extremely embarassing “Dino Truck” in the central plaza that drove us to the park.

The park was full of life-sized sculptures of prehistoric creatures that our guide described with hilarious expressions in broken English.

“Remember guys, the spikey ones, the ones with the spikes.”

At the end of the tour, we were taken to see the dinosaur footprints that inspired the museum.  From a platform, we looked 200 metres away at a vertical escarpment littered with dinosaur tracks heading every which way. At first, one might conclude that these were gravity-defying dinos. In reality, they were normal ones whose fossilized footprints have been made vertical by the shifting of tectonic plates. They were only uncovered recently by a nearby quarry.

It was sad to see that the face of the escarpment was crumbling in front of our very eyes. The site is currently seeking a UNESCO designation to aid in financing its preservation.

In the afternoon, we visited La Casa de la Libertad, a former Jesuit church and university where Bolivia’s independance was signed into law on August 6, 1825.

Our tour guide explained the history of Bolivia in vivid detail: the establishment of Bolvia’s present borders, the relocation of the capital from Sucre to La Paz, important heroes and heroines and present-day challenges in the fragile democracy under Evo Morales, the first indigenous president.

Feel free to leave comments with questions about Bolivian history and we’ll do our best to answer!