Traveling changes you. When placed out of your comfort zone in a part of the world in which there are more obstacles, you grow and never return to the same person you once were.
Potosí, Bolivia, is one of the highest cities in the world. It sits on the lower part of the country and is known for its mining and colonial architecture. At one point, the city was the main supplier of silver to the Spanish empire. Today’s mining puts emphasis on the extraction of tin, zinc, lead, and silver.
As we were looking for a spot to take a panoramic photo of the city, we took the wrong turn. A wrong turn that was meant to happen. A wrong turn that enriched our lives by observing a huge contrast with our lives back in the United States.
Our truck couldn’t advance anymore on the impassable roads. We decided to get out and continue our journey to take the photo of the city on foot. Within a few seconds, we were greeted by a group of kids and their dogs. They all seemed confused and yet excited to see strangers carrying some interesting photography equipment. They followed us in curiosity, and so did their dogs. That is when we realized we were surrounded by the children of the mines.
I was able to capture one of the most meaningful photographs I have ever captured in my life. No longer the desire to take a panoramic photo of the city prevailed. So, here’s the photo. What do you see?
I see a group of kids in shock at seeing strangers that don’t resemble them.
I see a group of kids who are forced to work in the mines to help their parents extract something so they can eat. Most of them are not even in their teen years.
I see a group of kids that have no luxury whatsoever and live in complete poverty.
I see a group of kids covered in dust, with broken skin on their hands and snot on their faces from the gruesome environment.
I see a group of kids whose parents have a lifespan of 40 years of age. The parents are likely to get trapped at some point inside the mine and lose their lives from cave-ins or die from silicosis.
I see a group of kids who have to stay home alone while their parents work a 72-hour shift.
I see a kid with a pair of pants sporting a video game logo. A video game that he has never seen or will never have the luxury to play.
I see a dog that is very happy as long as he is next to those kids. Nothing else matters to man’s best friend than just the company.
I see a beautiful city in the background, but the contrast of a very difficult-to-swallow situation of poverty in front of me.
And last but not least, I see my family changed forever by those images. Images take away any desire to complain, and it is replaced by the feeling of pathos.
To my kids, I apologize for not giving you the vacation that at your age you want, but this experience was an investment in all of us to make us better humans, and to you reading this, I ask you, what do you see?
By Peto Fallas, Fallas Family Vision