El Tío

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A Figure of El Tio in Potosí mines, Bolivia, 1993

El Tío (The Uncle), is believed in Cerro Rico, Potosí, Bolivia to be the "Lord of the Underworld". There are many statues of this devil-like spirit in the mines of Cerro Rico. El Tío rules over the mines, simultaneously offering protection and destruction. Some figures are really in the shape of a goat.[1]

Miners bring offerings such as cigarettes, coca leaves, and alcohol for the statues[2][3] and believe that if El Tío is not fed, he will take matters into his own hands. Villagers of Potosi ritually slaughter a llama and smear its blood on the entrance to the mines.[1]

The miners of Cerro Rico are Catholics and they believe in both Christ and El Tío. However, worship of El Tío is condemned strongly by the Catholic Church.[1] Images of El Tío are usually not allowed outside of the mines, as this is seen as the realm of God and El Tío has no place there. Likewise, Christian symbolism isn't allowed inside of the mines, as this "Underworld" is seen as El Tío's realm.[4]

Every year, the Carnaval de Oruro is held, and costumes and statues of El Tío are paraded around in a ceremony that represents his defeat at the hands of the Archangel Michael. This is the only time that images of El Tío are allowed above the surface of the mines.[4][5]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The figure is featured in the music video for the 2013 song "La La La" by producer Naughty Boy in collaboration with singer Sam Smith, which takes place in various locations across Bolivia.[6]
  • The figure appears in Ghost Recon Wildlands, which takes place in a fictional version of Bolivia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "THE DEVIL'S MINER . The Mountain". Independent Lens. Archived from the original on 11 April 2014. Retrieved 2013-04-12.
  2. ^ "Cerro Rico: Devil Worship on the man-eating mountain". BBC.
  3. ^ "Bolivia 2003 - Potosi". The UCLA, Department of Earth and Space Sciences Tours. Archived from the original on 11 April 2014. Retrieved 2013-04-12.
  4. ^ a b "Meet El Tío: the Devil Who Rules the Underworld of Bolivia's Mines". Culture Trip.
  5. ^ Alex Jordan, Dancing With The Devil in Bolivia, Culture Trip
  6. ^ Joseph, Dana (18 June 2013). "Filmmaker Pons Jewell chooses exotic Bolivia for Naughty Boy's "La La La" video". CNN Travel. Retrieved 21 July 2013.

External links[edit]