Faith, Hope, and Chilean Pride

by Liz Caskey on August 23, 2010

Yesterday afternoon around 3:20pm we were polishing off the final drops of an exquisite bottle of El Principal 2006 and the last bite of our pasta-less roasted vegetable lasagna. Out of nowhere, horns began honking like crazy outside. Since this is a normal ritual after any major soccer game, we wondered who’d won. I didn’t think much of it until 10 minutes later when my husband flew into the office and said, “I wonder if they found the miners.”

Let me back up to share this dramatic, meaningful story with you all. Seventeen days ago, on August 5, miners were working in the San José gold and copper mine near the city of Copiapó, 500 miles north of Santiago. They were at a depth of about 2,300 feet when the rock above them completely collapsed. Rescue efforts began to bore a hole deep into the ground (this is the equivalent of 8 blocks long, just imagine that) to find signs of life, and create a system to bring fresh water and food if and when they found them. Until Sunday, there had been no evidence whatsoever that the miners had survived the ordeal that buried them. Since the incident, Chileans nationwide have been glued to the TVs, watching, and praying. It’s been the topic of conversation in nearly ever transaction from buying marraquetas at tea time to taxi driver conversations. Questions emerged. How would they find them? Where are they? Are they alive? If they are, how do we get them out?

And then the news came scribbled on a crumbled piece of paper with red letters, retrieved by the drill boring down to find them. Estamos bien en el refugio los 33. All 33 of us are okay in the shelter.

The moment that President Sebastián Piñera read that over live news, the horns erupted as an enthusiastic cry of happiness all over Chile. Now comes the hard work to get them out of the mine since the initial estimates from Andre Sougarret, manager of state copper giant Codelco’s El Teniente mine, who is heading up the drilling effort, says it may be Christmas until they see the light of day. My intent here is not to regurgitate the news. You can read about it via Reuters here. If you read Spanish, El Mercurio has complete coverage.

This incident is, for me, another amazing example of Chilean’s resiliency and solidarity. Throughout the country’s history, and particularly this year, they have been tried and tried again. Just in 2010 Chile has endured, persevered, and is recovering AND prospering after one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history. Chile’s national soccer team classified for the World Cup and played like true champs under the direction of Marcelo Bielsa even against titans like Brazil and Spain. This year on September 18, 2010, Chile celebrates its Bicentennial, 200 years since it cut ties with Spain and set off on its own destiny. And now, a huge disaster with the potential for a very tragic ending has resulted in another miraculous outcome.

How beautiful is Chile. Once again, as a country, all of its citizens step forward, ready to act when and where there’s need for solidarity. It began with preoccupation and prayers after news of initial cave-in. And yesterday, rejoicing, honking horns, flags being raised, even in my neighborhood Parque Forestal. This scene was repeated throughout the country, de norte a sur, motivated by a deep love for their country and people. These acts for me show how unselfish Chileans can be. Everybody did their part contributing hope and belief that they will find them.  And now to get them out. I believe it’s no coincidence they found the miners alive. Do you know how long it can take to even find them? Three to four months. Not only did they find them, they were all non-injured, had water, and even electricity.

Reflecting on this and the very high emotions felt here right now, I ask myself how does Chile do it? Resiliency. Faith. Hope. It, quite simply, sums up why this country has been so darn successful and gotten to where it is today in all aspects. Chileans don’t give up. They look deeper, work harder, yet know the way is there. Knowing this, they act. And even when they cannot physically help, people believe in praying/thinking of others. Prayer not as a religious act, rather a potent tool of collective thought that does draw the solution close. A concerted, unified effort that transcends the physical. With that kind of intention, the solution has to appear. It always does. It’s universal law. And yesterday it did, once again.

There’s no doubt, it is going to be a huge, collaborative effort to get these men out of the earth and home to the abrazos of their families. I am convinced, as is all of Chile, that it is not only possible, that so it will be. Truly, what’s not possible with that kind of unified, collective consciousness? It makes me proud to live here and call this place home. I feel that same sensation again that I had right after the earthquake, when Chile scored in the World Cup, or when I hear the first notes of a cueca. Pride. Love.

That’s right, Viva Chile!

Go Chile. You did it—again.

Thanks to AlexCamPro for capturing the emotion of the mine scenes in the North; and Reuters for Piñera’s good news.


Matt August 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm

I heard this news whilst having lunch with Lori from Wines of Chile. I could not believe it at first. Fab news. I was filled with tears

I just hope when the Hollywood movie is out, those poor 33 guys get some of the cash

Margaret August 24, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I too was finishing up lunch in a restaurant when the news broke. The manager turned on the television and everyone stopped, stood, and moved toward the screen in disbelief and later joy.
What an emotional year this has been for Chile. Such highs, such lows, a year that will long be remembered…
Let’s hope that some break through in technology will allow them to get those guys out of there FAST!

Lori Tieszen August 25, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Viva Chile! This is an amazing country with some of the stongest and most determined people I have met. I look forward to seeing the celebration at the release of the miners!

Todd Trzaskos - VT Wine Media August 26, 2010 at 9:31 pm

When we made our drive to Calama from La Serena, and passed through Copiapo, not only did I get the sense that we were entering the true desert, but the shifting colors of the rock and sand began to drive home how vast is the mineral wealth of this challenging landscape. Claim markers follow the road and recede into the horizon on each side, like wide spread gravestones…but we would hope that it is the prospect of a better life that lies below, not darkness. It seems that every family that we know in Chile, there is some connection to the mines, and I’m sure most in Chile do know someone who goes underground or works with dangerous equipment. Let’s hope that the positive emotions on the surface can be focused to support the guys below, as they have a long way to go. I personally hope that that the current pipe is large enough to provide them with enough music, wine, and love.

Mart S. - Grotto Cellars August 27, 2010 at 5:45 am

Very sad story but it was epic!

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