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A Free Reading Passage on Potosí for AP U.S. History

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

May 6

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Potosí is a referenced topic in the Columbian Exchange, Spanish Exploration, and Conquest topic in Period 1 of AP U.S. History. You could reference this example on your AP U.S. History test.



Potosí
2351902063/Shutterstock


In the heart of the Andes Mountains, nestled in what is now modern-day Bolivia, lies the city of Potosí. Its name may not be immediately recognizable, but its history echoes through the ages as a testament to human ambition, greed, and the cost of wealth.


Potosí rose to prominence in the 16th century when Spanish conquistadors stumbled upon the Cerro Rico, or “Rich Hill,” a mountain abundant with silver ore. This discovery sparked a frenzy of exploitation as the Spanish Crown sought to capitalize on the vast mineral wealth hidden within the rugged terrain.

The mines of Potosí became legendary, attracting thousands of indigenous laborers and African slaves who toiled under grueling conditions to extract the precious metal. The scale of extraction was staggering; it is estimated that over two-thirds of the world’s silver production during this period came from Potosí.


Spain benefited immensely from the silver extracted from Potosí. The influx of wealth filled the coffers of the Spanish Crown, financing military campaigns, lavish court lifestyles, and the expansion of its empire across the globe. Silver from Potosí became a vital component of the global economy, fueling trade and commerce routes that spanned continents.


The city’s prosperity was further enhanced by the establishment of the Casa de la Moneda, or Royal Mint, in 1572. Here, silver bullion was minted into coins, known as “pieces of eight,” that circulated widely throughout the Spanish Empire, facilitating trade and enriching Spanish merchants and financiers.

However, behind the facade of riches lay a darker reality. The exploitation of indigenous and slave laborers led to untold suffering and loss of life. Conditions in the mines were deplorable, with accidents, disease, and malnutrition claiming countless lives. The city became synonymous with suffering, earning the grim moniker “The Mountain That Eats Men.”


Despite the immense wealth flowing from Potosí, its fortunes were not eternal. By the 18th century, the silver deposits began to dwindle, leading to economic decline and social upheaval. The once-thriving city fell into decay, its lavish buildings standing as melancholic reminders of a bygone era.


PRINTABLE READING PASSAGE ON POTOSI

Would you prefer to share a printable passage with your students? Click the image below to grab it!



Potosí Free Reading Passage


Do you want to watch a video about Potosí?







Columbian Exchange, Spanish Exploration, and Conquest



Period 1



AP U.S. History




Potosí



Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

May 6

1

0

0

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