Chilean Celebration

The sounds of car horns bounced through the streets of Santiago.  The bop-ba-bop-bop rhythm echoed between the skyscrapers as Chileans waved their flags out the windows of their cars.   These celebratory honks that exploded in the capital city last Sunday marked the first day that the 33 miners trapped underground for the past 24 days got word to the surface that they were alive.   It was a big deal. While the news of the trapped miners is just beginning to creep onto the front page of The New York Times, here in Chile it is on every news channel and periodical, all day, every day.   I was in a museum with two other American students when the news broke.  Out of nowhere, one of the guards started running around telling people, “están vivos, están vivos!” They’re alive? Who’s alive? He didn’t even have to explain. After that, the celebrations broke out on the streets.  I had never seen anything like it.  We weren’t even sure what was going on until we asked somebody if all of this was actually because of the news that the miners were alive — it sure was. People were smiling, yelling “están vivos!” while waving flags and honking — lots of honking.  The city erupted over these miners.   At first I couldn’t believe the excitement.  After all, they were still trapped underground.  But then again, mining is a big part of the culture and the economy in Chile, and this accident has become something very personal and unifying here. I see news about other countries: pictures of strikes, floods and earthquakes, but it feels so different to actually be in that foreign country.  It is easy to feel detached when we watch the news or read newspapers, but it is always people, real people, in real situations — you just have to imagine it.