Potosi's little guards

At 8 o´clock sharp, Yoddy opens the shaky metal door of her house in order to turn on the compressor that provides the surrounding mines with air. Her mother Maxima (41) and her two brothers Israel (7) and Paul (9) are still lying under the pile of blankets that protects them from the morning chill of the 4000m high altiplano. The family lives on the Cerro Rico, the “rich mountain” in Potosí, Bolivia. Like 200 other families, they guard the entrance to one of the 500 silver-mines and therefore receive a payment of 40€ per month, barely enough to buy groceries for two weeks. Without her husband‘s salary, who died in a mining accident at the age of 35, Maxima is forced to work in the mines herself. Together with her children, she helps the miners to push the heavy mining cart out of the tunnel, or free the adit of debris.

When Yoddy, Paul and Israel come home from school it already gets dark. Often they meet drunken miners on the way up to their house. Yoddy doesn‘t like to live between so many miners. She doesn’t feel comfortable and says that many of them molest her.
Israel stands in front of his house right next to the entrance of the mine and plays with “Oso”, one of his six dogs.
Maxima Limachi holds her youngest son Israel in her arms. On the window ledge stands a photo of her deceased husband. He died at the age of 35 in a mining accident in one of the tunnels of “Cerro Rico”. Since then, Maxima has raised her children alone.
In the early morning, Yoddy and her brothers lie in bed. Under the mattress the family stores drills that the miners use in the mine next to the house. In case something gets stolen they would have to replace the expensive tools.
Instead of going to school, Yoddy and Paul wait for hours to receive free clothing which the cooperative is handing out.
Surrounded by mining-carts and the exhaust of compressors, Israel walks along a road on “Cerro Rico”.
For guarding the mines seven days a week all day long the cooperative pays around 40€ to Maxima and her family. To earn a little more they have to work in the mines themselves from time to time. The seven years old Israel helps to free the cart‘s railway
Yoddy and Maxima are pushing the cart with rocks out of the mine.
Every friday the miners drink cheap 96% alcohol or beer before and during their shift. Israel discovered a rusty part of an old machine right next to the miners and uses it to play.
Yoddy works in the kitchen to prepare lunch that she later sells to the miners that work close to her house. She also sells the soda and liquor on the shell behind her.
Maxima, the brother of her deceased husband and her tree children are on the way to the hot springs of „Miraflores“ about one hour outside of Potosí.
Since they don‘t have any shower or running water, they make the best out of their situation and travel once a week to the hot-springs. For a low entrance fee they play a few hours in the hot water and wash themselves from head to toe.
Next to the hot-springs of “Miraflores” one hour outside of Potosí Yoddy, Paul and Israel can be children at last. For hours they run through the green grass growing around the rivers and waterfalls in search of frogs. Especially observing Yoddy one can r
Highly concentrated, Isreael pucks gray hairs from his mother‘s head.
Maxima sits in front of her house with a group of young miners, that chew coca-leaves before entering the mine. The juice is supposed to give them energy for the hard work in the mine.
On their way to the doctor, Maxima and Paul walk through the historical center of Potosí. When Paul slept at a neighbor‘s house, the twelve year old son of the family poured alcohol over his leg and foot and set him on fire...
...He suffered from extensive second-degree burns, but his mother never sent him to a doctor or hospital. Onl y when the local NGO “cepromin” took notice of the case, he received medical treatment.
An old teddy-bear lies in the muddy river bed.
Due to his burns Paul can only sit at the side of the soccer field and watch his mother play. Maxima trains with her team for the upcoming tournament agains other women from the mountain.
Paul plays with his dog „Pirulin“ in the dressing-room next to the mine.
Paul leaves his house on the way to the adit. In the foreground stands a mining-cart on wooden rails that lead out of the mine.
Every day at twelve o’clock, Israel and his siblings go through a little transformation to show their best side in school. They put on the school uniform, comb their hair and clean their shoes. They are afraid of beeing discriminated in school due to thei
Maxima often seems tires from the daily efforts to provide the most basic needs for her family.
Israel Limachi plays next to his house on the mountain „Cerro Rico“. Behind him lies the city Potosi and the old conveyor plant at the bottom of the mountain.