Energy rising as Santiago holds its breath for miners

The party may not have started yet, but you can bet your money that when the last miner gets out in Copiapó, Santiaguinos will be primed to express their emotion as comprehensively as the first time they received good news from the north.


The atmosphere in the Santiago has been deceptively ‘business-as-usual’ since the first miner was raised to the surface late last night.  But televisions in every shop window and radios in every passing car have been tuned in to the rescue until the very last man makes it out alive.

“Right now people are just working and waiting for the last person to get out. Everyone’s thinking about it,” said José Dumenes, a 52 year old fruit seller from Recoleta. “I was up ‘til 3am last night watching it with my family and then here to set up at 6. That doesn’t leave much room for sleep.”

People in dark suits on their way to work down the Santiago’s central pedestrianized street Ahumada, filed past a big group silently watching a giant screen normally used to show football matches. Instead, they were watching the 10th man being raised in a rescue attempt believed by many to be a miracle.

Chile’s people feel a true connection with God, and a similarly powerful solidarity with the rest of their countrymen. The two became part and parcel at the base of a statue in central Santiago’s Plaza Italia, which exploded into celebrations when the miners were discovered alive on August 22nd.

“It’ll be like a football match,” says Sebastian Catalan who joined the celebrations that day, and plans to be present for these ones. “People have horns and drums, everyone is over the moon, making as much noise as possible, and all the cars which pass by are beeping.”

Images from the day of the famous ‘Estamos bien en el refugio los 33’ show crowds of young locals all over the statue waving giant Chilean flags, and old men scattered around the fringes weeping into hats and thanking God for the amazing piece of news.

When President Pinera returns from his visit to Europe on the 15th, the 33 miners will be brought to central Santiago’s government building La Moneda in a show much like a world cup victory parade. A light show previously at the government building during the country’s 200th anniversary two weeks ago saw 70,000 people crammed into a square which should have held a maximum of less than half of this.

Police lining the streets have nothing to do other than stand and watch. “It’s something that we can’t control. It’s something spontaneous – people just go for it and we never know what’s going to happen,” says Aileen Carcamo Bruning, a government worker from La Moneda.