United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

 

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Around two billion ounces of silver were extracted from the Bolivian city of Potosí’s Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain) during the Spanish colonial era. Its silver paved the city’s streets, fuelled the European Renaissance and helped fund the “Invincible Armada,” the Spanish fleet that sailed against Elizabethan England in 1588. Indeed, the mining area of Potosí was regarded as the world’s largest industrial complex in the 16th century. Today’s local mining methods have changed little over the years.

Potosí was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987, an event which UNESCO commemorated with the issue of the medal in 1993. UNESCO is active in the restoration projects for some 2,000 colonial buildings and is monitoring the conservation of the Cerro Rico’s mining installations, which include tunnels, furnaces, hydraulic mills and a network of aqueducts and artificial pools, as well as areas where workers once lived.

Designed by the Bolivian artist Benedicto Aiza Alvarez, the medal’s obverse shows a dome of the Royal Mint and the bell tower of the baroque cathedral, with the Cerro Rico in the distance. The reverse bears the World Heritage emblem.

Available in gold, silver and bronze

Photo © UNESCO/N. Burke

© UNESCO 1995-2008 - ID: 26444