As the story goes, Potosí was discovered by two native Andeans transporting food from Cochabamba to the mines of Porco. These men, guayradores, who smelted silver, traveled on a route that took them past the foot of Cerro Rico (rich hill). At precisely this point in the journey one of their freight llamas strayed from the rest. The man known as Guallpa chased the llama up the slopes of the mountain only to stumble onto a huge outcropping of silver. He discretely replaced the llama’s load of food with silver and rejoined his companion. For several months Guallpa returned to the mountain, took the ore, and refined it for himself. This later led to the discovery and establishment of Potosí and its mountain full of silver, which provided the Spaniards with riches.
The Spaniards first entered the territory that is now Bolivia in 1535, but they did not fight any precious metals that they were looking for. Ten years later, the Spanish discovered the silver in Potosí and quickly relocated to that location. Potosí was officially established by Viceroy Francisco de Toledo in 1572, although it served as an urban-industrial center since 1545, the year in which rich veins of silver were discovered. The Viceroy Diego Lopez de Zúñiga y Velasco, Conde de Nieva, decreed that the city was to be called the Villa Imperial de Potosí. Potosí quickly became one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the Spanish Empire by the mid 17th century with a population of 160,000 people.
This webpage will research how advanced technology affected the boom in silver production and how this boom subsequently shaped the demographics in Potosi.