Lives of Chilean miners changed by celebrity status

By Hugh Bronstein

SANTIAGO (BestGrowthStock) – One became a father during his captivity deep inside an Andean mine. Another returned to the surface with a book draft. A third was met by his mistress while his wife stayed home.

Before their mine collapsed, trapping them half a mile underground for 69 days, the miners freed on Wednesday were unknown workers toiling in the rock below a Chilean desert.

Now they are national heroes and global media stars, their private lives in the public limelight.

Their amazing rescue — each hoisted in a one-man capsule through a narrow escape shaft drilled through 2,050 feet of rock — was broadcast live and watched by millions around the world. 1,500 journalists reported from the scene.

During his weeks trapped below ground, Victor Segovia, the writer in the group, wrote dozens of pages of what could be his first book, prompting interest among publishers.

“This is a book that would obviously generate a lot of interest,” said Paul Bresnick, a New York literary agent.

“Now, how do I get in touch with him?” Bresnick asked.

Ariel Ticona, who is scheduled to be pulled out second to last on Wednesday night, became the father of newborn daughter, Esperanza, or “Hope,” earlier this month. Chile is waiting for the first images of father, wife and daughter together.

But it was Johnny Barrios, 50, who attracted the most attention. The miner had left two women on the surface: his estranged wife and his live-in girlfriend. The public wondered which if either would be there to give him a hero’s welcome.

Rescued on Wednesday, Barrios was greeted by his girlfriend, a blond-haired woman who hugged him tightly when he emerged from the escape shaft.

In the case of Bolivian Carlos Mamani, the only non-Chilean national among the 33 trapped miners, it was his country’s President Evo Morales who came to greet him.

Morales said the flawless rescue operation helped build confidence between Chile and Bolivia, neighbors locked in a long-standing border dispute about access to the Pacific.

The first worker to be pulled up in the tight-fitting capsule was 31-year-old Florencio Avalos, who emerged looking surprisingly healthy after two months of near darkness.

The second was Mario Sepulveda, whose shouts of joy were heard echoing up the shaft before his arrival. Once out of the capsule — painted red, blue and white, like the Chilean flag — he punched the air, dropped a yellow bag on the ground, reached in and started handing out souvenir rocks.

Omar Reygadas, who at 56 was among the oldest in the group, draped himself in the flag of his soccer club Colo-Colo for the short ride to the surface, freedom and fame.

It was the third time Reygadas had been trapped in a mine, but his family doubts he will give up his passion for working underground.

(Reporting by Hugh Bronstein, Terry Wade, Cesar Illiano and Brad Haynes; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

Lives of Chilean miners changed by celebrity status