Patiño, Simón Iturri (1860–1947)

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Patiño, Simón Iturri (1860–1947)

Simón Iturri Patiño (b. 1 June 1860; d. 20 April 1947), Bolivian tin miner. Born in Santivañez, Cochabamba, Patiño spearheaded Bolivia's transition from silver to tin producer and in the process became one of the wealthiest men in the world, powerful enough to influence Bolivian politics greatly in the early twentieth century. Working first for Bolivian and German merchant houses and the Huanchaca Company, Bolivia's foremost silver-mining concern, Patiño purchased his own share of La Salvadora tin mine in 1894. After striking a rich vein in 1900, Patiño continuously modernized mining production and began purchasing other tin mines. He also began buying shares in German and, later, in partnership with U.S. venture capitalists, British tin-smelting operations in Europe. In 1924 he established Patiño Mines and Enterprises in the United States. He also bought into Malaysian tin mines. By the 1920s his Bolivian holdings were only a small fraction of his total business empire, although he continued to produce at least one-third of all Bolivian tin. With his Banco Mercantil, he was one of Bolivia's leading bankers; he also owned a majority share in the Sociedad Agrícola é Ganadera de Cinti, the largest agro-industrial enterprise in Bolivia.

Given his financial clout, Patiño was a major figure in Bolivian politics. His actions led to the splintering of the Liberal Party in 1919 and so aided in the revolution that brought the Republicans to power the following year. The Catavi Massacre in 1942, in which the army killed hundreds of unarmed miners and women and children in a labor dispute with Patiño, raised nationalist fervor against the mine owner. Since Patiño had lived in Europe from the 1920s and controlled so much of the Bolivian economy, many Bolivians resented him. This resentment ultimately led to the expropriation of his mines during the 1952 revolution and the creation of Comibol, the state mining company.

See alsoBolivia, Political Parties: Republican Party; Tin Industry.


The best biography of Patiño is Manuel Carrasco, Simón I. Patiño, un prócer industrial (1960). See also Herbert S. Klein, "The Creation of the Patiño Tin Empire," in Inter-American Economic Affairs 19 (1965): 3-23; Juan Albarracín Millán, El poder minero en la administración liberal (1972); and William L. Lofstrom, Attitudes of an Industrial Pressure Group in Latin America: The Asociación de industriales mineros de Bolivia: 1925–1935 (1968).

Additional Bibliography

Albarracín Millán, Juan. El poder financiero de la gran minería boliviana. La Paz: Ediciones AKAPANA, 1995.

García Flores, Pedro Pablo. La minería en Bolivia. Bolivia: Observador, 2005.

                                             Erick D. Langer