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Full Circle

Day 217: Boyaca Valley

Cosquez, Colombia 
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Guaceros scour the aqua nero (black water) for the emeralds. Cosquez.
Michael Palin - Full CircleOn our way out of Bogotá, in the Boyaca Valley west of the city where, in 1819, Simon Bolivar fought the crucial battle that won Colombia independence from the Spanish Empire, is Cosquez, the largest, richest emerald mine in the world. It opened over ten years ago but produced nothing for the first five years as the mountain in which the mines are located was fought over by rival bandit groups. Three thousand five hundred people were killed in the struggle for control.

Today, six thousand live on the mountain, but only one thousand two hundred of them are employed by the private company that has the mining concession from the government. They in turn employ a private army to help run it.

Weapons are carried openly. I see a man casually bouncing a pump action shotgun up and down on his foot. Rifles and double-barrelled shotguns are carried like shoulder bags. The women look as hard as the men. They wear tight jeans with revolvers tucked into the belt. It is a McCabe and Mrs Miller world of tired, hard red-eyed faces, of black mud tracks along which four-wheel drives slide and slither to avoid horses and donkeys carrying supplies.
Cosquez, Colombia 
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Guaceros scour the aqua nero (black water) for emeralds. Cosquez.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 217
  • Country/sea: Colombia
  • Place: Cosquez
  • Book page no: 280

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