Synopsis by Mark Deming
The forsaken world of Bolivian silver miners is brought to the screen in this powerful documentary. Basilio Vargas is a 14-year-old boy living in the impoverished Cerro Rico region of Bolivia. Since the death of his father, Basilio and his younger brother Bernardino are the breadwinners in his family, and they support their mother and siblings working in the Cerro Rico silver mines. Basilio is one of 800 children who regularly work the mines, and it's indicative of the danger and physically punishing nature of the work that the miners swear fealty to "Tio" -- the Devil -- because it's believed God would never enter such a place. Cerro Rico's silver miners have an average life expectancy of 40 years or less, thanks to the poisoned air, the constant heat, the use of explosives, the primitive and unsafe equipment, and the long hours demanded of the laborers (most are sent into the mines for 24-hour shifts, and both children and adults often chew coca leaves to ward off hunger and fatigue). While Basilio's more fortunate classmates make fun of him when he's able to attend school, he realized his family need the money and he's willing to endure the agony for the small wage he makes every day. The Devil's Miner chronicles several days in the life of Basilio Vargas as a document of the inhuman conditions he and his fellow miners face, as well as the young man's bravery.
Bolivia, Catholicism, child-labor, devil, fate, hardships, mine, poverty, silver