On paper, Potosi sounds quite nice, even charming. Narrow streets lined with period buildings, a tree-lined main square with all the Spanish colonial trimmings and alleyways lit by imitation gas lamps.
However, despite all this there is an air of depression in Potosi. Perhaps it’s the city’s history – boom followed by bust, followed by boom followed by bust (first silver then tin). Perhaps it is it’s knowledge that it’s glory days are firmly placed in the 17th Century, or that a locals’ day’s labour risks life and limb for, at best a few dollars worth of base metals. Depression in Potosi is infectious.
It starts for you when you are dumped, unceremoniously, in a square on the outskirts of the town by a night bus driver from La Paz, who clearly can’t be bothered to drive further in to the town and it’s bus station (presumably for fear of catching depression).
You walk the deserted streets until eventually someone claiming to be a taxi picks you up and takes you to your hostel.
Any hope of having your spirits raised are dashed. You wait countless minutes and numerous doorbell rings before being let in and shown to a room barely large enough to accommodate the bed. You lie down – a rest will make everything better. After clearing the plethora of jet black hairs from the bed you doze off, only to be woken by the pounding of rain on the filthy sheet of corrugated plastic that serves as both window and skylight.
There is little left but to throw on some warm clothes and stumble out on to the street in search of a bar to drown your sorrows in. But of course there are none, every turn only yields a closed up storefront that should surely be a watering whole. Are we to believe that the residents of Potosi are so straight laced as to not enjoy a beverage at 6pm on a weekday evening? Hardly. Perhaps the lack of licensed premises is a contributing factor in the Potosi Blues.
The only thing the town does seem to have in abundance is pharmacies – presumably cashing in on the latest boom – antidepressants.