El Ultimo Minero

What has been as amazing as watching, in real time, the 33 Chilean miners be rescued from their 68 day limbo in a rock chamber two thousand feet below the surface? It was as magnificent a technical feat as sending men to the moon; they even called it a capsule, the metal cage they cranked the men back to the surface in.

The only ongoing coverage we could find was “coloratura interrompo” offered by the two Spanish-speaking stations we get. American television (basic cable anyway) ignored it. I don’t know why, it was pretty sexy, the capsule rising with a man inside recapitulating penis-in-vagina as it was inserted into the tube that would lead to the sky. And then it emerged like a baby crowning, Chile its name in clear capitals,  a brilliant branding by the Chilean people and media everywhere.

The capsule itself got more beautiful, more scarred and dirty, each time it writhed through the zig-zagging tunnel 2000 feet to the surface. It is destined for a museum. The whole effort was a monument to human ability. A great moment for the Chilean people, an incredible achievement–mesmerizing–like a great accident in reverse.

So many tears, so much anxiety in the expressions of those who waited above–the young woman who chewed her nails and drew her sweater sleeves down over her wrists, the other young woman who held her man in a long tongue kiss, the mother and son reunion, mistress who came instead of the wife, the daughter whose face betrays her love and fear. El Ultimo, the leader, though: No one greeted him, besides the president and other dignitaries. He kept the men together but apparently had no family, perhaps a son. No fathers at all, it seemed. Although if they were the fathers of miners, perhaps they were themselves miners, already gone.

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