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mining

Father Copper

When Carmen Ahumada first looked on the copper mining city of Calama, she wanted to die. It was 1958, long after Germany’s World War I-era invention of artificial saltpeter—the main ingredient in bombs—brought Chile’s glory days as a world supplier to an end and made obsolete the tiny, arduous saltpeter towns that had cropped up all over the Atacama Desert.

Mother of God, Child of Zeus

I want to lie like the street dogs do, bare stomach skyward, inviting the lightest touch of breeze. The men here rest that way too, in plastic chairs shaded by blue-tarp awnings, T-shirts hiked up over their bellies. Small, naked children sprawl, listless, on the cool tile floors of Laberinto’s gold-buying shops along the southern bank of Peru’s broad Rio Madre de Dios.

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