Monday, June 19, 2023

Potosi: My Very first Blog


I was feeling a little guilty about reposting, rather than offering new material for today.  But I have been consumed with getting ready for an up-coming big event: The release of the Spanish translation of my first novel.  Such an outcome was a favorite fantasy when I was writing the story and in the years it took to find an agent and a publisher.  As I prepare for the launch of La Ciudad de Plata, I hoped today to get away with reposting a blog about that book.  Doing my best to ignore the guilt whispering at the edge of my consciousness, I searched MIE’s history for an appropriate old post.  I found my very first blog, with MIE’s ever kind and encouraging founder’s introduction.  Then, I noticed the date when he introduced me:  June 19, 2010!!!   Good-bye guilt.


Here, from thirteen years ago to the day, is the background story to City of Silver, the English edition of the book now available for pre-order. Thank you again and again, Leighton Gage!




Today we're pleased to welcome Annamaria Alfieri.

Deadly Pleasures Magazine called her book, City of Silver, one of the best first novels of the year.

The Washington Post said, “As both history and mystery, City of Silver glitters.”

And I couldn't agree more.

One of the secrets about Annamaria is that she isn't Annamaria. 

As Patricia King, her real name, she has authored five books on business subjects including Never Work for a Jerk, which was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and the current Monster Boss. 

Annamaria/Patricia lives in New York City, and writes today about the place where her novel is set:



The Richest City in the World

Picture the most powerful city in the Western Hemisphere, the same size as London, a place that has dominated the economic life of the planet for a century.  Its upper classes are mostly white, consumed with displaying their wealth in the form of the latest in luxury goods and sumptuous parties.  The thankless or dangerous work is done by a brown underclass of people largely of South American Indian or mixed Indian and Spanish blood.  At the moment, the city is on the brink of economic ruin, because its dominant men have manipulated the financial system in a way that will affect the economies of countries around the world.  The troubled among its citizens console themselves with strong drink or fundamentalist religion.

Sound familiar?  New York City in 2010, right?
Well, yes, but it is also Potosi, in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru in 1650.


The most fundamental thing about Potosi is its position.  At 13,500 feet, it was then and is now the highest city on earth.  What could possibly have brought 160,000 souls—noblemen and beggars, the covetous and zealous—to live in a remote and desolate land where not a blade of grass grew, in thin,  icy air, buffeted by awesome storms and bitter winds?  Only one thing: Money.  Literally, tons of it.


In April of 1545, the Spanish arrived and claimed a red canonical mountain that turned out to be the richest silver lode ever discovered.  Despite the hostile natural environment, over the next century, the city attracted Indian and Spanish miners from all over the Altiplano and western South America.

At first, silver was so close to the surface that it had been exposed by erosion, and so pure that it hardly required refining.  And the riches were shared among all—Indian or Spanish—who worked the Cerro Rico (rich mountain).  Twenty percent of all that was taken was loaded on mules and llamas to make the three-week trip to the coast at Arica, where it was sent to the King of Spain. 


The city that grew up at the base of the mountain became a lovely Spanish place with a cathedral, monasteries and convents, palaces of noble (actual or pretended) Spaniards and their wives, a theater, and a mint to stamp coins, which came to be known as doubloons in the pirate adventure stories of our childhoods. 

The buildings were decorated by native artisans in a style called Mestizo Baroque: as ornate, complex and beautiful as Baroque churches in Rome or Vienna, but with motifs of jungle animals, exotic plants, and Indian faces. 

By 1650, however, the veins being exploited were deep in the mountain, and the mine owners required mercury to purify the silver.  To maintain the flow of wealth, the Spanish instituted a system of enforced labor called the mita, little different from, some say with no difference from slavery.  The work was so dangerous that tradition says, in the villages where men were impressed into the mita, their relatives played dirges for them as they marched away.

Potosí still exists as a city of 105,000.  In 1986, UNESCO declared it part of the Patrimony of Humanity.  Its architectural masterpieces have largely been restored and can be enjoyed by visitors.


Miners still work the Cerro Rico.  Until recently, they have taken mostly tin and copper from the mountain.  But the media have reported that lithium, perhaps the metal of the Twenty-first Century , has been discovered there.

The life of Potosí is about to change again.


Leighton for Annamaria - Saturday
Check out her web page here:



  1. I love this post so much, and am grateful you reposted, as I missed it the first time around. Congratulations on the new editions, cannot wait to read.

    1. Thank you, Wendall. For now the new edition is the Spanish one. Familiar as you are withe the vagaries of publishing, you will understand when i tell you that a new edition of CofS in English awaits the reversion of rights. Alas, a consummation I have been working toward since 2017. You can be sure I will brag about that the minute it happens.

  2. Wonderful post--and thank you for (re)sharing! Congratulations on the new editions

    1. Thank you, Jamie. I am very proud of the translation, done by the sensitive and talented Angelica Ramirez. She absolutely got the need to make the language sing in the right voice for a novel set in 1650, but being read in the 21st Century!

  3. I recently bought City of Silver--it was the last one available, and I look forward to reading it. I'm happy to read this post that gives background information about the novel. Thanks so much, Annamaria!

    1. Thank you so much, Martha. I hope you enjoy the ride in my time machine. One of the great things about writing historicals is that they don't go out of date. No need to invent broken cell phones or hacked computer systems for mysteries that take place in an era when the only quick way to get a message across town was write on paper and give it to a man on a horse. :)

    2. I thoroughly enjoyed the book! What a clever way to murder a nun in a locked cell! Is there an audio version of this book?

  4. Congratulations on the Spanish edition! City of Silver is an excellent novel and if you haven't read it yet, treat yourself!

  5. From AA: Thank you so much for your kind words. I am hoping the story finds readers in the Spanish speaking world.