Tim Brown

Simon Iturri Patiño: The Epitome of Entrepreneurship or a Hated Exploitative Industrialist

Simon Iturri Patiño (1860-1947) attained an unprecedented level of industrial success through intensive work and intelligent management within the tin mining industry of Bolivia. While pursuing expansion and growth with limitless desire, Patiño rose from a mixed blood, or cholo, background to one of the world’s most well-known businessmen. He performed feats such as building a substantial railroad from his personal business income, introducing the first ever diesel engines to Bolivia, and buying out his most hated rival Compañia Estanifera de Lallagua through remarkably successful purchases of Llallaguan stock. In the mid-1920’s, Patiño ultimately chose to pursue greater international influence within tin exportation as well as smelting well beyond Bolivia.

Despite Patiño’s extraordinary accomplishments, he has been widely criticized especially by people within Bolivia. Partly due to his permanent exit from the country in the mid-1920’s and partly due to harsh, low-paying employment within his mines, Patiño developed an image as a deeply complicated figure. Patiño’s management of people may be the most complex of all: the native Bolivian treated his managers extremely well but failed to meet the needs of his entire workforce well due to labor uprisings such as the Cataví Massacre of 1942. Through his death in 1947, Patiño portrayed brilliance in business as well as a consistent notion of putting his own interests first, a quality which in part led to the nationalization of Bolivia’s tin mines in 1952.

Geddes, Charles F. Patiño: The Tin King. London, Robert Hale and Company, 1972.

Hewlett, John. Like Moonlight on Snow: The Life of Simon Iturri Patiño. New York: Robert M. McBride and Company.