Sunday, October 17, 2010

Follow up on Miners by Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz

When Florencio Avalos came out of the San Jose mine after sixty-nine underground. He and his peers had been pump up to returning back to the surface. Their families had been prepared to handle the emotional moments to follow the rescue. We acknowledge that these miners are a resilient bunch, we even see the miracle as it unfolded in front of our eyes.  Millions of people celebrated around the world and became a part of this historical moment.  

The experiences of the group in those days really built on the collective resilience of the group. The activities that they undertook let them to affirm their cultural identity as miners and as Chileans (even the Bolivian miner engaged in the cultural activities). They strengthened their social networks and supports, as seen by one of the miners who upon his arrival to the surface acted as a cheer-leader for the rescuers and the viewers alike. We all witnessed the deepening spirituality as expressed by the older miner, who upon his arrival to the surface kneeled in a prayer to the all Mighty for his save return and that of his peers. After all, those various factors contributed to resilience by fostering physical and emotional well-being  and serving as valuable personal goals in themselves. 

Three days after their dramatic rescue we began to hear how lucky this bunch was, appearances on TV, interviews and trips would net each of them about $400,000 US. We4 all rejoiced about that, but questioned the wisdom of exposing them so soon after the rescue to so many stimuli. Was it prudent psychologically for the survivors?  I spoke to a colleague about this and his response was that the emotional well-being would be handled step by step, and that the Ministry of Health of Chile had put in place a safety net to handle their recovery and psychological well-being.

Less than a week has gone by since the surviving miners have returned to the surface, and a different story is emerging from the miners optic...  They report "harassment from the press and other media, lack of basic services (water, sanitation, housing and food, and unemployment). The very basic pre-condition necessary to calm these miners and promote hope in a future without post traumatic stress reactions, has not been assured by the Government of Chile.  The mental health safety net is not in place or has broken down. There were no considerations taken to assure that the living conditions of the miners would be improved during those 69 days. 

What will pave the route to peace, reconciliation and resilience? The miners have asked that (1) their privacy be respected, (2) access to basic services such as water, electricity and basic livelihood, and (3) protection from drug gangs, and other undesirables in their respective neighborhoods who now see them as targets because of the recent publicity, and (4) most importantly of the miners said "we are all poor, and have a lot of needs, but we enjoy working and want to work".



  1. Trauma continues for years together after such incidents. Survivors will need lot of psychological support. May God help them.

  2. Hopefully, the same media attention that is intimidating them right now will be able get their government's attention in order to meet their basic needs as well as their psychological needs.


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