The student blog for Drake University first year seminar entitled Visual Politics

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mission Complete


Most people have probably never thought about what it would be like to live for 69 days trapped in a hole underground. Without sunlight and fresh air, it sounds a lot like torture. This was the reality for 33 miners in Chile for the past two months. 32 Chileans and 1 Bolivian man are being strategically pulled up and out of the death trap below as I am writing this. Tremendous joy and relief were experienced around the world as the first man, Florencio Avalos, was lifted out and embraced his family and then President Sebastian Pinera. The emotions of family members in the background reflect the emotions of millions that watched the rescue unfold over live television. Rescuers saved the men months ahead of schedule, having told the press that the rescue would not take place until December. This image demonstrates the very intense personal triumphs of the 33 miners as well as the efforts of a nation to save them.

Each miner will undergo immediate medical and psychological examination as soon as they are pulled free. It’s a record amount of time to be trapped in a mine and come out alive.  The personal battles each man endured will probably never be known. Many said they had turned to their religion for strength and faith during those long days. Viewers can relate to this struggle by imagining what it would be like go through a similar experience. Although it seems hard to relate to such an extreme event, some parts, for example missing family members and friends, are common occurrences for regular people. It’s easy to know what reuniting with family members after a long absence feels like. Thousands of soldiers share this feeling each year after returning from fighting over seas. Not only the feeling of missing family members and friends, but the feeling of hopelessness and fear must have overcome the miners as they sat and waited for the good news of a solution. An unimaginable 17 days without contact, food, and water would take an incredible toll on each man. The group survived on a 2 day supply by sipping water and taking small bites of tuna until rescuers could reach them with supplies. Some people have never gone even a few days without food and water so it would be hard to identify with this aspect of the story. As millions of people can relate to this photo personally in some way, a nation of people can also relate to the feelings Chile was experiencing as a whole.

The media views this as a great triumph for the country of Chile to be able to band together and safely free the miners. Although this is a great accomplishment, there is another side to the story.  It brings up the controversy of mining and mining safety. Along with the joy felt was the feeling of anger by some that it was wrong for the men to be put in such danger. This is a fact that most people don’t care about or realize until an accident like this happens. This photo can also be considered a call to action.  The media focus right now is on the safety concerns of each man, but afterwards will the country see a political movement for safer working conditions in mines like this one? The mine the men were trapped in has been in operation since 1885. The depth of the rescue shaft was 2,041 and took 20 minutes for each trip to the surface. The meticulous rescue has been in the making since the men were discovered to be alive after 17 days of uncertainty. Mining contributes about 40% of Chiles state earnings and is absolutely necessary for economic survival. With that, Chile and the world have banded together to save these men and return them home to their families. The people of Chile are said to have seen this as a positive step for the government and government responsibility. Having rescued the men early than first announced, President Pinera receives political and personal approval from Chile’s citizens. By also being very involved and shown at the scene of the rescue, President Pinera receives a purely political boost. The metonymy of this photo includes the ability for viewers to relate to this photo and the struggles of each family and also the view of a nation behind this miracle rescue and survival.

Megan Fisher

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