Thursday, 14 October 2010

Chile: From depths to heights [*versión castellana al final*]

(A brief interlude in my ‘Bucket List – Reversed’ posts)

Number of days the 33 Chilean miners were
trapped underground in the San José mine, Copiapó = 70

...The tumult and the shouting dies
The Captains and the Kings depart...
(Rudyard Kipling)


For anyone following the drama unfolding in the San José mine, Copiapó, Chile, the last few days have been an emotional rollercoaster, culminating yesterday, Wednesday 13th October 2010.  We’ve all had our reasons for being glued to the screen – the main one being that in this uncertain world, when the media actually give us good news we are irresistibly drawn into becoming a part of it if we can.  Conversely an ongoing human tragedy also has the power to bring us all together – we are all willing the people involved to give us a happy ending. 

This story has had both.  We felt the despair of being trapped underground and the euphoria of being saved.  The goodwill has flowed in rivers towards the brave 33 who not only survived, but seem to have conducted themselves in a noble and relatively calm manner while they waited to be rescued; towards the authorities headed by the Chilean president himself, who have behaved honourably and responded promptly to the emergency; towards the foreign powers and companies who have done the planning and sent in their expertise quickly and efficiently.  As far as one can see, this has brought out the very best in everybody who was involved.

But as the emotion recedes somewhat, I can’t help but wonder about the possible negative consequences.  For a start, the owners of the mine are in for the high jump, no question – there will be nowhere for them to hide.  The wider implications are massive – in Chile itself it is well known that safety in mining is a contradiction in terms, and once the President has come down from the gold pedestal he has occupied for the last couple of months (well earned, in fact - he is clearly a kind and genuine person) he will have to deal with the dirty business of straightening out the standards of all unsafe industries in his country – he has as much as said so. 

But how about the rest of South America where it is no better, and other corners of the world where the mining of their natural resources is an important part of their income?  I hope this will prompt a worldwide examination of safety, and an honest debate about exactly how much compromise is being forced upon mining companies by foreign economic interests, and naming who the culprits are.

The media will worm out of the miners every last snippet of ‘what went on down there’; even the parts which they insist are private between them.  All will cease to be private as soon as there is enough financial inducement to reveal every detail.  Every conversation and argument will be resuscitated, every angle examined for the delectation of the public and the satisfaction of their curiosity. 

The 33 miners (32 Chilean and one Bolivian) will now be “The 33”, and if their fame means they will never have to work again, then good luck to them.  But will it be that simple?  I worry that the media will tear them and their families apart, that seen in the long-term, the casualties will not have been the miners, but their wives and children.  We can only hope that they are given wise counselling, and that they listen to it.

I think we would all react in the same way – we can all be bought.  Sadly human nature is at its best under life-threatening difficulties, yet at its worst when there’s money around.

I have always loved Chile, its marvellous people, the scenery – both the gorgeous and the forbidding - which invariably captivates me; its history, in many ways bound with Argentina’s yet with its own singular tragedies, from bloody repression to earthquakes.  I have always felt compelled to follow its news, to pay special attention when it is mentioned in the media.  What for me has been wonderful about Wednesday 13th October 2010, put pure and simple, is that it was an affirmation of love. 

The effort to get the miners out was awe-inspiring, the organisation and their survival a miracle.  But what we’ll all remember are the tearful hugs exchanged by the miners and their loved ones and the warm and caring welcome by the rest, from the President downwards.  I found myself wishing I too could experience the joy the families must have felt as they embraced the man they loved and had given up for dead weeks before. 

I would alter slightly the old adage – it’s love and kindness that make the world go round, and they are all that matter.
.
Picture from Google Images from the time of the earthquake
in Chile earlier this year.  I think it encapsulates
the invincible spirit Chileans showed at the time,
and which I saw reflected again in Camp Hope.
Bravo Chile!

-oOo-

Desde las profundidades hasta las alturas.

Los últimos días han sido una montaña rusa de emociones para los que han seguido el drama que se desarrollaba en la mina de San José, en Copiapó, Chile, que culminó con el rescate de los 33 mineros el miércoles 13 de octubre de 2010. Todos hemos tenido nuestras razones por querer estar cerca de la pantalla, siendo la principal que en este mundo incierto, cuando los medios de comunicación realmente nos hacen llegar buenas noticias sentimos el impulso irresistible de ser parte de ellas. Por otra parte, una tragedia de actualidad es capaz de unirnos a todos – deseamos con todas nuestras fuerzas que tenga un final feliz.

Esta historia tenía las dos cosas. Compartimos la desesperación de estar atrapados bajo tierra y la euforia del rescate. Un gran río de buena voluntad fluyó hacia los valientes 33 mineros que no sólo sobrevivieron, sino que también parecen haberse comportado con nobleza y cordura mientras aguardaban el rescate; hacia las autoridades chilenas, encabezadas por el presidente mismo, quienes reaccionaron a la emergencia de inmediato y honorablemente; hacia los países y las compañías extranjeras que contribuyeron el planeamiento y los conocimientos técnicos con eficiencia y sin demora. Desde aquí nos parece que salió a relucir lo mejor de todos los que participaron.

Ahora que el alto grado de emoción ha comenzado a bajar un poco, no puedo hacer más que reflexionar sobre las posibles consecuencias negativas. En primer lugar, damos por sentado que los propietarios de la mina pagarán caro su negligencia y no les quedará ningún lugar donde esconderse. Las repercusiones más amplias son enormes – dentro de Chile mismo nos dicen que la seguridad en la minería es un término contradictorio, y en cuanto el presidente descienda de su pedestal de oro de los últimos meses (de hecho bien merecido – está claro que es una persona buena y sincera) tendrá que ocuparse del tema sucio de los niveles de seguridad en todas las industrias peligrosas de su país – lo comentó él mismo.

Pero – ¿y en el resto del continente sudamericano donde la situación es la misma?.. ¿y en otros rincones del mundo donde la extracción de los recursos naturales igualmente constituye un importante ingreso? Espero que estos sucesos provoquen un examen mundial de la seguridad, y un debate honesto sobre hasta qué punto las compañías mineras se encuentran comprometidas por los intereses económicos extranjeros, y que a la vez nombren a los culpables.

Los medios seguramente les sonsacarán a los mineros hasta el último chisme y detalle sobre “lo que pasó ahí abajo”, hasta lo que ellos mismos han insistido permanecerá sagrado. Todo dejará de ser privado en cuanto haya un incentivo financiero suficiente que les haga revelar todos los pormenores. Cada conversación y disputa será resucitada y examinada bajo la lupa para el deleite del público y la satisfacción de su curiosidad.

Los 33 mineros - 32 chilenos y un boliviano - ahora serán “Los 33”, y si la fama que les seguirá inevitablemente significa que nunca más tendrán que trabajar, pues que les aproveche. Sin embargo me pregunto si todo resultará ser tan simple. Me preocupa que los medios los destruirán a ellos y a sus familias, que a la larga, las víctimas no serán los mineros, sino sus parejas y sus hijos. Esperemos que reciban asesoramiento psicológico profesional, y que lo tengan siempre presente.

Me parece que todos reaccionaríamos de la misma manera – todos tenemos nuestro precio. Tristemente la naturaleza humana aunque se luzca bajo circunstancias de peligro mortal, pasa a lo peor cuando hay dinero de por medio.

Siempre he querido a Chile, su gente simpática, sus paisajes tanto hermosos como hostiles que invariablemente me cautivan; su historia en parte ligada a la argentina pero con sus tragedias singulares - la represión sangrienta, los terremotos. He sentido la compulsión de seguir sus noticias, de prestar atención especial cuando se la menciona en los medios. Lo que para mí ha sido maravilloso de los hechos del miércoles 13 de octubre 2010, dicho simplemente, es que fueron una afirmación del amor.

El esfuerzo realizado para rescatar a los mineros fue impresionante y conmovedor, la organización nacional y extranjera, y la propia lucha de los mineros por sobrevivir, un milagro. Sin embargo lo que recordaremos todos son los abrazos y el llanto de los 33 y sus seres queridos, y la bienvenida calurosa y solidaria de los demás, desde el presidente para abajo. Me hubiera gustado a mí también sentir la emoción de aquellas familias cuando abrazaban al hombre que amaban y que habían dado por muerto unas semanas atrás.

Altero ligeramente el viejo dicho – es el amor y la bondad que hacen girar el mundo, y son los únicos sentimientos que cuentan.

-oOo-

Photo Finish:
From Lonicera's non-digital archive

Flowers, Spain












-oOo-

10 comments:

Zanna said...

Caroline, what a heartfelt post and I agree with everything you say and like you hope that when the euphoria wears off that the miners and their families are able to resume a happy and contented life - whatever shape that takes and that the safety legislation for mining is given a complete overhaul. Have a lovely weekend Zxx

tessierose said...

Very nice post. I hope for the miners that they will see their strenght and use their stories of survival to inspire others.

THE DASH! said...

The rescue was the MOST amazing thing. I have been following it - and am awed at the tenacity of these men and what they went through. xx

Joyful said...

I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say. There are many issues to be dealt with for miners of the world and if the 33 experience can help to solve even one, then the millions of dollars spent would have been worth it. My hope is that the President of Chile will be much more successful than dealing with one issue of safety and for that the entire world can be grateful to Chileans for showing us the way.

Matvi. said...

Me parece que tus reflexiones son de las más iluminadas que he leído o escuchado sobre el tema.
Thank you for sharing them.

Lonicera said...

Thank you all...

Mil gracias Matvi - me afectó mucho. Hoy decidí enviar el posteo como 'carta al director' al Mercurio (y a La Nación, que de seguro me ignorarán), pero me parece que es demasiado largo, y un poco tarde. Lo tendría que haber hecho el jueves pasado... Pero igual, quería hacerlo.

Caroline

Reddirt Woman said...

I hope, like all, that the miners and their families survive the onslaught of the publicity and that all mine owners around the world take to heart that miners safety is paramount. I know that in all endeavors there is inherent danger of one sort or another, even a commute to town for a 'regular' job, but in mining there has seemed to be more concern for the bucks than the workers. I think that this is one very public example of mans desire not only to live but to help others to live also. We have often heard or read of one or two or even nine being saved but 33... and as much as all that was done to rescue these 33, they worked as hard to save each other until they could be rescued.

And that yellow flower is incredible...

Helen

Vagabonde said...

What a beautiful post. We were in New York at the time of their rescue and did not see the TV broadcast unfortunately. It must have been so emotional. I am afraid though that it will take a long time to have more safety in mining. Here in the West Virginia Mountains where there have been many mining tragedies, it is a constant battle to get some more stringent safety measures enacted. I hope everything will go well for the miners in Chili.

Bunny said...

Hey you, congrats on getting into the 100 club!!! 199 on the 17th October!!! welldone hunny.
Loved this post above too, very heartfelt and caring and full of important questions that should be addressed.

I love that photo of the silvercr9oss pram and the young woman. Did you take that??

bunnyx

Lonicera said...

Really nice comments, thank you.

Bunny - yes all the Photo Finish pics are mine, and others too unless I mark them as Google images. I took it in the town of Lorca, province of La Mancha, in southern Spain, through which we were passing through. She looked so casual and gypsy like, so un-motherly, and her partner had long hair and a guitar slung over his shoulder, that I took several surreptitious shots, and this is the best one.
Caroline

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