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Miners' families keep the faith at Camp Hope

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Miners' families keep the faith at Camp Hope


Camp Hope – the tented village now known the world over – was born out of the faith of a handful of families whose menfolk have been buried underground since 5th August.

Their refusal to quit was pivotal in sparking an unprecedented mine rescue operation.

The first miracle came on 22nd August. For 17 days after the underground rock fall, the men were believed dead.

But when the first drill-bit broke through to them, the oldest of the miners attached a letter to it.

Mario Gomez, 63, detailed the exact position of their refuge and added some reassuring words for his wife Lilian Ramírez.

Talking about that, she said: “I want a shrine to stay here, a lovely big shrine where people can come and where the families can give thanks to God, the Virgin Mary and all the other saints who gave us our families back. That they are doing well and all alive is a remarkable miracle.”

Fifty kilometres away, in a suburb of Copiapo, lives another miracle of the San Jose mine.

Jhonny Quispe had only been working at the pit for three months at the time of the collapse.

He got out minutes before the roof caved in.

“I’m still scared,” he said. “I could have been a victim of that collapse. You weren’t allowed to go into that area. They wouldn’t even have found my body. The owners were putting us at risk. They only care about making money. They’ve not shown any humanity.”

His son-in-law was not so lucky. Carlos Mamani is one of the 33 trapped underground.

He sends letters to the surface every day saying he is in good health.

But Mamani’s partner and one-year-old baby are waiting anxiously for him to return.

Camp Hope is built on solidarity and courage, and a belief in the saying that faith can move mountains.

Everybody there believes it. But the experience has changed the perception of the future.

One trapped miner, Esteban Rojas, proposed to his long-term partner who has been waiting 25 years for a church wedding.

Jessica Yáñez laughed: “He told me to say that we’re going on a trip with the children and the grandchildren. We’re going to go relax for a few days and, after that comes the marriage.”

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