Miners and coca, Bolivia

Wilson works in a mine in Oruro, Bolivia. He shows me ‘around’ in the mine. In this narrow tunnel through the mountain, where Wilson works between 5 am and 7pm, it is black for 360 degrees and the smell is dust. On some of the tunnels it is possible to stand or bow a little, but there’s a lot of crawling as well.

Because of the grit in his lungs, he decided not to live in the mine camp. Outside the camps there is fresh air, but further down town. In the ten years that he has worked in the mine, he has lost four colleagues, including Angelo. At the end of a tunnel in the mine there is a large altar in the shape of a big doll. This doll, Tio, is called named after Angelo.

Angelo is there to protect the miners. To safeguard the protection of Angelo, the miners give him offers, like ceremonial and ritual prayers, but also alcohol, cigarettes, coca leaces and baby lama’s.

With the alcohol, the cigarettes and the coca that you offer to Angelo, it looks like a man’s world, but women also work in the mine. When a miner dies, the widow takes over the work of her husband.

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