Rinconada Suchis - the World's Highest Lawless City

Rinconada Suchis: Life on the Edge in the World’s Highest Lawless City


  • 34,683,444
  • 1.285 million km²

High in the unforgiving Bolivian Andes, nestled precariously among snow-capped peaks, lies Rinconada Suchis—a place that defies definition. Lawless doesn’t even begin to describe it. This city is carved from the rock face, a sprawling maze of mudbrick dwellings clinging to life at an unimaginable 5,400 metres.

For those seeking an adrenaline-pumping adventure far from the well-trodden tourist trail, Rinconada Suchis beckons. But be warned, this is not for the faint of heart.

A City Built on Desperation

Rinconada Suchis owes its existence entirely to gold’s lucrative but lethal allure. Prospectors, many driven by desperation, have flocked here for generations, lured by the promise of striking it rich. The city is a testament to their relentless pursuit – a haphazard sprawl that defies gravity. The air is thin, the wind is relentless, and temperatures plummet below freezing at night. Life here is a constant battle against the elements and the ever-present threat of altitude sickness.

Rinconada Suchis - the World's Highest Lawless City

A Day in the Life: A Miner’s Grind

The rhythm of life in Rinconada Suchis is brutal. Days begin before dawn as miners rise with the first slivers of light, fuelled by coca leaves that dull the gnawing hunger and altitude sickness. The descent into the mines, some little more than holes hacked into the mountainside, is a perilous journey. Ladders creak under the weight of men and supplies, the ever-present danger of a rockfall a constant companion. In the fetid darkness, miners chip away at the rock face, hoping against hope to unearth a vein of precious metal.

 A Glimpse into the Depths: The “Cooperativa” System

The mining industry here operates on a system known as the “Cooperativa.” Miners work for themselves, selling their finds to middlemen who control the market. There’s no guarantee of success; many toil for weeks with nothing to show. The fortunate ones who do strike gold face another danger – robbery. Violence is a fact of life in Rinconada Suchis, a consequence of the desperation that fuels this harsh existence.

Rinconada Suchis - the World's Highest Lawless City

Beyond the Mines: The Women Who Keep the City Running

While the men toil in the mines, the resilient women of Rinconada Suchis keep the city running. They are the cooks, the shopkeepers, the doctors (of sorts), and the glue that holds this fragile community together. Their days are a relentless work cycle – preparing food, selling provisions, and tending to the sick. Life expectancy here is low, and the harsh environment takes its toll on everyone.

A City on the Precipice: Environmental Concerns

The environmental impact of Rinconada Suchis is a cause for serious concern. Mercury, a toxic byproduct of the rudimentary gold processing techniques employed here, pollutes the surrounding land and water. The delicate Andean ecosystem is under immense strain, and the long-term consequences of this unchecked exploitation are yet to be fully understood (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128229460000131).

Rinconada Suchis - the World's Highest Lawless City

A City at a Crossroads: The Future of Rinconada Suchis

The future of Rinconada Suchis remains to be determined. The city’s gold reserves are finite, and its very existence hangs in the balance. There are whispers of government intervention and talks of regulation and reform. But for now, life continues as it has for generations—a harsh existence on the edge fueled by desperation and a glimmer of hope.

Is Rinconada Suchis for You?

Rinconada Suchis is only for some. It is a place of extremes – a harsh environment, a dangerous way of life, and a constant gamble with one’s health. However, for those seeking an adventure unlike any other, a glimpse into a world untouched by modern comforts, Rinconada Suchis offers a unique and unforgettable experience. Just be sure you go in with your eyes wide open.


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