Sunday, October 17, 2010

Los 33 Mineros

They complained in the East,
They are paying too high.
They say that your ore ain't worth digging.
That it's much cheaper down
In the South American towns
Where the miners work almost for nothing.
— Bob Dylan - from 'North Country Blues', 1963.
To-day there was a Mass or Service of Thanksgiving by the San José mine in Copiapó, Chile. Thirty three men had been entombed for 69 days. They will all be in the Guinness Book for that. They were exquisitely rescued by the Fénix (Phoenix) 2 capsule. In Chile the mission was called Operación San Lorenzo. I had always understood St. Barbara was for the miners, but looking at a longer list, so he is.
Esteban Rojas
Chile is a still a pre-dominately Catholic country, and many of the former Catholics still understand the culture. And in many Catholic cultures '33' represents the number of years Jesus spent on earth. It is Christ's years. The mythology of the phoenix is that of Resurrection. The phoenix is sometimes on the gates of cemeteries. Jesus is sometimes represented by a phoenix.

There was great drama there. Great Joy! in the end, after great dread. On 5 August 2010, the mine collapsed trapping men 700 metres (2300 feet) down. The outside world would not have been surprised if they all lay dead. Some thought that they would be retrieving their bones years after.

In Copiapó, on 17 October 1973 Pinochet's soldiers murdered 16 men. The murdered had been thrown in a mine. Copiapó is in Acatama Desert, the driest in the world. It is not a beautiful terrain with opportunities. Desolation and despair had coupled many times. Copiapó is the main town in an impoverished province.

A miner's life is dangerous everywhere. The US had a great tragedy this year, where 29 of 31 miners died. After the Chilean rescue, Ecuador had a collapse and miners died. In China, there was another disaster with more than twenty deaths. Last year, in China, well over 2,000 miners died. Profits come before safety in industry.

Seventeen days and no contact until a small bore hole made contact on 22 August. Then they eventually employed three separate drilling operations. First it was announced that the men would be there till Christmas. Team 'B' reached the men, and in 23 hours the Chilean navy's (with NASA help) ferried a capsule as an elevator in the drilled shaft.

History has shown us, many times, and in many lands, that labor made many stands in the mine fields and pits. Many died working, and standing up. Gains were also made. Mining is hard, dirty, dangerous and often deadly. Solomon's mines were deadly, and so are American (North and South) mines.

Sebastián Piñera is a billionaire through television, aeroplanes and credit cards. On 11 March, he was inaugurated as President, and an huge earthquake hit the country. He had been a professor of economics, and is the first 'right-wing' leader since Pinochet's dictatorship.

Piñera, during the rescues, beamed with joy. His face could barely contain his smile. After Luis Urzúa, the leader of the miners, and the last to come up, topped out, Piñera and the rest sang the national anthem. The celebration was obvious, and strong, and deeply felt. Piñera has promised safety in the mines, "Never again in our country will we permit people to work in conditions so unsafe and inhuman as they worked in the San José mine, and in many other places in our country". Has he been touched by the Spirit?

Chile rejoiced during the rescue. On a spanish language US network, a continuous tally was adjusted on how many were rescued, and how many remained underground, until the score was 33 - 0. A rescuer held up a sign, 'Mision Cuplida' (Mission accomplished), and unlike a banner on a naval leviathan outside San Diego in recent US history, it was!
Franklin Lobos
Mario Sepúlveda was the second to come out of the rescue capsule. He led the crowd in a football cheer, "Chi-Chi-Chi-le-le-le". Others had family waiting on deck to embrace them. People prayed. Freed miners went on their knees in supplication. Franklin Lobos played football (soccer) from 1980 to 1995, became a driver, and then a miner. His daughter was waiting for him with a ball. Carlos Mamani, came from Bolivia, where there was no work. He worked in the mine for five days, then the extended two month shift. Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, was there to bring him home. No, Señor Mamani was now a Chileno as are his comrades.
Luis Urzúa, center; Sebastián Piñera, right
There were soap operas a plenty. Not all have come to light. Miner Johnny Barrios' wife found out he had a girlfriend for years. A thousand journalists came to record the stories, most have left. The world had a few moments of happy, successful drama unfold on television. Chile is now happy, and the miners' lives will continue.
"This mine has had a long history of accidents and that's why this mine will not reopen while it doesn't assure and guarantee the integrity, safety and life of who work in it are clearly protected. And the same will occur with many other mines in our country".Sebastián Piñera

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