Del Mar: ‘Gift of El Tio’ authors to appear at Earth Song Books

By Jonathan Heller


A renowned geologist who made the largest silver deposit discovery of the 20th century will be in Del Mar on Aug. 6 to sign copies of the book he authored with his wife about the experience.

“The Gift of El Tio” tells the story of geologist Larry Buchanan, who made the original find in 1995, and his wife, Karen Gans, a child development specialist, who acted as his conscience during the ensuing mining operation that forced the relocation of the Bolivian village that sat atop the deposit.

The two will be at Earth Song Books and Gifts at 1440 Camino Del Mar in Del Mar on Aug. 6 at 10:30 a.m.

The couple, who live in Ashland, Ore., spent parts of a decade in the tiny, impoverished village of San Cristobal in the Bolivian Andes as it was relocated brick-by-brick about 11 kilometers away.

The title refers to the name of the god whom the indigenous people believed lived underneath the village guarding the precious veins of silver and gold. “El Tio,” according to legend, promised that those who believed in him would receive a gift which would be revealed in the year 2000.

To the villagers, Buchanan’s discovery represented the fulfillment of that prophecy. The silver mine meant an end to centuries of poverty. But there was a catch: The entire village would have to be uprooted.

For Buchanan, the economic benefits of the mine were obvious. Most male residents of San Cristobal had to move away when they became adults to find work. This would allow them to stay at home with their families.

But Gans was not immediately convinced. In fact, she was extremely disturbed by the fact that the 440 inhabitants would lose their ancestral homes. She insisted that she and Buchanan go live in the village to ensure the people were treated humanely and fairly.

“I went into this experience convinced that the mining company was going to screw these people,” Gans said in a recent interview. “But as time went by, I saw the people benefitting (economically) and I had to open myself up to what the mining company was accomplishing.”

Today, San Cristobal has almost 3,000 residents; people who were drawn to the area by the promise of jobs in and around the mine.

The authors will donate a portion of the book’s profits to the village of San Cristobal, Bolivia.

Larry Buchanan earned his Ph.D. in economic geology in 1979 and taught university-level geology for several years, but his love of the field led him to gold and silver prospecting in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In 2006, he won the coveted Thayer Lindsley Award for the San Cristobal silver discovery. Buchanan has published a dozen scientific works and is a sought-after speaker at international conferences and college campuses.

Karen Gans earned her master’s degree in early childhood development and has 35 years of experience as an educator, counselor, and consultant. She taught English in the Quechua village while the couple lived in Bolivia.

Karen and Larry have four children and two grandchildren.

The book was published by Fuze Publishing (trade paperback and ebook versions),