POTOSI, a city of Bolivia, capital of the department of Potosf, 47 m. (direct) S.W. of Sucre 1 , or 88 m. by the post-road. Pop. (1906, estimate), 23,450. Potosí stands on a barren terrace on the northern slope of the Cerro Gordo de Potosí, 12,992 ft. above sea-level, and is one of the highest towns in the world. The famous cerro from which its name is taken rises above the town to a height of 15,381 ft., a barren, white-capped cone honeycombed with mining shafts. The town is regularly laid out with streets crossing each other at right angles. The smokebegrimed buildings, many of which are unoccupied and in ruins, are commonly of adobe. A large plaza forms the conventional centre, around which are grouped various religious edifices, the government house, town hall, national college, the old " royal mint " dating from 1585, and the treasury. The city has a massive, plain cathedral, which in part dates from early colonial times, and in part from the closing years of Spanish rule. The water supply is derived from a costly system of reservoirs and aqueducts constructed by the Spanish government during the years of the city's greatest prosperity. There are 27 of these artificial lakes, and the aqueducts originally numbered 32, some of which are no longer serviceable. Rough mountain roads and pack animals are the only means of transportation to and from Potosí, but a railway from Oruro to Tupiza via Potosí, forming part of the projected Pan-American route, was contracted for in 1908. In 1611 the population of Potosí was reported to be 160,000, which probably included the whole mining district. A part of the diminution since then is explained by the fact that the great majority of the mines on the cerro have been abandoned.
The foundation of the city dates from 1547, two years after the first discovery of silver on the cerro by an Indian herder named Gualci. Charles V. conferred upon it the title of " villa imperial." From 1545 to 1800 the crown tax of one-fifth upon the mineral product amounted to 32,600,000, showing an acknowledged output of 163,000,000. The actual output, however, must have been much greater, as Spain was flooded with contraband silver, and there was a large trade in it at La Plata ports, whence it was taken to Brazil and Portugal. The total output to 1864 has been estimated at more than 400,000,000, but the annual output at the beginning of the 20th century barely exceeded 400,000 ozs. The struggle for independence began in Potosí on the 9th of November 1810, but the Spanish forces succeeded in retaining possession down to 1822.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)