The Mountain that Eats Men

By (author) Ander Izagirre Translated by Tim Gutteridge

Publication date:

15 April 2019


Zed Books



ISBN-13: 9781786994554

From the 16th century, the mines of Potosí, perched high in the Andes, bankrolled the Spanish empire. During those years immense wealth allowed the city to grow larger than London at the time and the mountain was quickly given the epithet Cerro Rico – the 'rich mountain'. But today, Potosí’s inhabitants are some of the poorest in South America while the mountain itself has been so greedily plundered that its summit is on the verge of collapsing. So many people have died in the mines that the Cerro Rico is now called the 'mountain that eats men’.

In this captivating, moving tale of harrowing bravery and wistful beauty Ander Izagirre tells the story of the mountain and those who risk their lives in its shadow through the eyes of Alicia – a 14-year-old girl working in the dark, dangerous mines to support her family. Through her eyes we can come to know the story of postcolonial Bolivia.

Key features

  • A stunning blend of travel writing, memoir, history and reportage, revealing life on the slopes of the Cerro Ricco, known as the ‘mountain that eats men’.a
• Follows the story of a child (Alicia) and her family to illuminate a wider narrative of poverty, greed and the legacies of colonialism. Alicia is a trope for the postcolonial generation and its struggle.
    • The Mountain that Eats Men is also the story of the minerals mined at the Cerro Rico, where they move around the world and how some of them end up in our homes and hands.
      • Author is winner of the European Press Prize (2015), best-selling author in his native Spain, he has recently been compared by El País to Ryszard Kapuscinski and described as ‘one of Spanish journalism’s best-kept secrets’.
        • Beautifully written, for fans of How Green Was My Valley and writing about mountains, e.g. Robert Macfarlane and Robert Twigger

        ‘Burning with a quiet power and rage, The Mountain that Eats Men will move you to tears and to anger.’
        Mark Mann, author of The Gringo Trail

        ‘Izagirre’s narrative of characters eking out a living amidst what, for many, ultimately became silver-lined tombs is deft, admirable, and haunting.’
        Kim MacQuarrie, author of Life and Death In the Andes

        ‘With echoes of Galeano’s political ire and Salgado’s immersive rawness, Izagirre has produced a gut-puncher of a book.’
        Oliver Balch, author of Viva South America!

        Praise for the Spanish Edition:

        ‘Extremely well written … uses what appears to be a small, personal story to tell a much wider, more universal one… Like Kapuściński, he finds the drop of water that reflects everything around it.’
        Martín Caparrós, El País

        ‘[Shares] the spirit of Eduardo Galeano... but Izagirre gets closer to the ground.’
        Ricardo Martínez Llorca, Culturamas