The Chilean Miners, One Year After: Bitter Sweet Memories

I remember clearly the emotion and the sorrow that all Chilean people felt a year ago, when breaking news in every TV channel announced that a group of Chilean miners was trapped with very few possibilities of surviving in the Atacama desert. Their families immediately arrived at the San José mine, and decided to stay there until their men returned to life. That was an amazing choice that clearly saved their lives, just as the decision that President Piñera made in a glance: Every resource would be used to free those men.

It was a tragedy that was followed around the world: from Africa to the U.S., India to Norway, everybody felt the same way. And in Chile, it was the everyday talk.

Finally, as everybody knows, the tragedy ended well.

But, what happened afterwards?

On a personal level, the miners are living now very differently. Some of them have used all this popularity, money and fame to build better lives for themselves and their families in the future. They have done good choices, limiting their exposure to television and sensationalist media coverage. They have tried to go back to their former lives: same homes, same friends, same people.

Others, by contrast, have changed completely their lifestyles. All these travels around the world, TV interviews in the U.S., and events and speechs all over have made them confused and detached from what they used to be. Some of them even say that they were better in the mine...

In every human experience, especially in the most shocking ones, there is a process to be made, a mourning, a transition. And some of them are doing this process, but not all of them. All this media attention -- and invasion in some cases -- has not helped them to go back to basics and learn and reflect about what happened to them, and how they really want their lives to be from now on, besides the noise of sudden fame, money, gifts, etcetera.

And the country has had its own process too. A year ago, we were really united and feeling together in this quest, and the president was very popular. Now, we are facing a really strong and intense movement of students fighting for better and less expensive education, and last month there was one marcha after another. And the cacerolazos, the way people protested against Pinochet in dictatorship, were heard last Thursday: a noise that brought back bitter memories. President Piñera has the lowest popularity of a Chilean president in 20 years, and everybody is now talking about this chilean malaise, even though the country is growing fast and strong.

Are these two issues related? Maybe they are. Maybe the now famous "Chilean way" used to rescue the miners opened the expectations in our country. Maybe people now think that the same energy, courage, innovation, and strength that Chilean government and society showed with the miners might be used now to achieve the big quality goals that Chile needs to be a developed country.

Paula Escobar Chavarría is a Chilean journalist, editor and author, and was elected Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. She lives in Santiago and works as Magazines Editor for the chilean daily El Mercurio.