A nation united: There's more to Chile than a well-priced Pinot Noir
Sunday 10 October 2010
The fate of the miners trapped half a mile underground, and their government's remarkably competent efforts to pull them out alive, has united the people of Chile and reminded the rest of the world that there's an awful lot more to this Andean nation than military dictators and well-priced pinot noir.
Its odd shape – a wafer-thin geographical curiosity, 2,880 miles long but averaging just 109 miles wide – is not its only distinction. Chile is the world's largest copper producer and has its driest desert, a fiord-filled coastline of more than 4,000 miles, stunning northern salt flats, snow-capped volcanoes, beaches full of penguins in Tierra del Fuego, a currency called the peso whose symbol, confusingly, is the dollar sign, and a whole Easter Island full of statues. Yet, to reach it, tourists must endure a 22-hour plane ride and the blankest of looks from most travel operators. As the British press pack have just discovered, you can't even catch a direct flight from London to Santiago.
Once here, visitors will find one of the region's most prosperous countries, with a can-do attitude, stable economic growth, low unemployment, and – almost uniquely in Latin America – a narrowing gap between rich and poor. Here are world-class ski resorts, fine surfing beaches, and mile after mile of vineyards yielding the excellent red wine that accompanies the national dish, empanadas, an utterly delicious meat pie.
At this time of year, the hilly desert around the San José mine looks like something out of National Geographic. Every few hundred yards is a banner either celebrating the nation's recent 200th birthday or offering fuerza, or strength, to the trapped men. Chile's hero of the moment is Laurence Golborne, the dashing mining minister who mixes ruthless efficiency with the effortless bonhomie of many of his countrymen.
On Friday night, he was sat round a campfire at the mine playing Radiohead on his guitar, to the miners' families. Yesterday, dressed in a red ski jacket that wouldn't look out of place on James Bond, he convened a hasty press conference to announce the completion of the rescue tunnel. "How are the miners?" shouted one TV newsman. "A lot calmer than the journalists!" he replied. That zinger – elegant, understated, and intentionally hilarious – was the perfect advert for his very under-rated country's charms.
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Wreckage could be found within a week as search reaches 'very critical juncture', says minister
South Korea ferry disaster: Released transcripts show chaos and confusion in the moments before ferry sinks
Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Abdullah Deghayes: My son was the martyr of a just cause, says father of British teenager killed in Syria conflict
Ukraine crisis: Helicopter gunships take country closer to all-out war
- 1 Chelsea 1 Sunderland 2: Graceless reaction of Jose Mourinho a sad effort to hide his own flaws
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...
£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...