Cerro Rico, Tierra Rica

Cerro Rico, Tierra Rica

Directed by: Juan Vallejo
100 minutes

US Premiere

Spanish with English subtitles


High in the Bolivian Andes, at the foot of a mountain called Cerro Rico, lies the city of Potosí, built on the mineral riches mined out of the mountain: silver, zinc, tin, lead. Though the silver veins were depleted centuries ago, workers still scour the mountain hoping to find undiscovered treasures. Meanwhile, in the nearby Salar de Uyuni, another community of workers taps into vast salt flats, the largest in the world. Between these two sites, mining has been a long-standing way of life for the area’s indigenous population, a dangerous job passed down from one generation to the next or, in some cases, from husband to wife.

Blending mesmerizing long shots of mountain miners with breathtaking footage of the starkly beautiful salt flats, CERRO RICO, TIERRA RICA transports the viewer directly into the heart of the Cerro Rico and Salar de Uyuni areas, even going so far as to enter the underground tunnels of the dangerous mountain mines. Given the mines’ importance to the local communities, views on them are deeply ambivalent. Some workers bemoan their exploitation by the government and wealthy outside interests. Others mourn the loss of loved ones to work-related illness. Still others defend this way of life and the traditions and history inherent to it. By including all of these views, CERRO RICO, TIERRA RICA provides a fascinating look at modern-day mining communities.

—Kristina Aikens