The devil underground: Bolivia’s mining lord of the underworld – by Angelica Zagorski (CIM Magazine – October 27, 2021)

Deep inside the dark corners of Bolivia’s deadliest mine, an average of 14 lives are claimed each month. The deaths could be attributed to either the effects of continuously breathing toxic dust and fumes or unsafe working conditions underground, but to the locals it is the work of the devil-like deity known as El Tío.

El Tío, meaning “the uncle,” is worshipped by miners in the Cerro Rico mountain. Legend has it that any deaths that take place in the mine are said to have been caused by his hunger.

The Cerro Rico mountain was once the location of the greatest silver deposits on earth, but it carries a dark history. Between four and eight million aboriginal Quechuan peoples and enslaved Africans are estimated to have died mining the mountain, earning it the name “The Mountain that Eats Men.”

The underground cult of El Tío comes from an ancient myth told by the Spanish Catholics. When they arrived in the 16th century and exploited the mountain, the Incas and Indigenous peoples were forced to work in brutal conditions, and many died from overexertion.

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