I could hardly breathe. Sweat poured off my face as I bent and clutched a handkerchief to my mouth, attempting to suck some oxygen through the fabric. Only sometimes did I dare lift the cloth away from my mouth, desperate for a fuller breath; I was reluctant for the air was poisonously dusty. I gasped and gasped, unable to tell whether the primary reason for my struggle was a true lack of oxygen or panic. Cerro de Potosí, commonly known as Cerro Rico (“rich mountain”), and also, dreadfully and honestly, as the Mountain that Eats Men, looms over the city of Potosí. For centuries, the Spanish Empire was bankrolled by silver from this mountain. In the seventeenth century, Potosí was one of the largest and…