Chilean miner wants his page of history back

 

The Chilean miner who wrote a famous message informing the world that he and 32 colleagues had survived an accident which would leave them buried deep underground for more than two months has an announcement: he wants his note back.

Jose Ojeda said yesterday that he intends to force his country's government to return the historic scrap of paper on which he scrawled the words "Estamos bien en el refugio los 33" ("We are OK in the refuge, the 33 of us") in red felt tip pen.

The message was attached by Mr Ojeda to an exploratory drill sent deep into the San Jose gold and copper mine 17 days after the accident last August. Its unexpected appearance sparked a frantic rescue effort that would eventually see the men returned safely to the surface.

Chile's President, Sebastian Pinera, has since kept the note in a plastic bag, and is often photographed showing it off to world leaders. He would now like the item to go on display at a museum chronicling the rescue, where it will be kept alongside a selection of other memorabilia.

First, he'll have to convince Mr Ojeda. In an interview with a Chilean newspaper, La Cuarta, the miner claimed this week that the message remains his property under copyright law. It's therefore up to him to decide where it will end up, he argued, saying that for now, he'd simply like the scrap of paper to be returned.

So far, Mr Pinera has failed to co-operate with his requests to discuss the item's future, he added.

"I was told six months ago to ask for a meeting with the President; they told me to send a letter to the presidential palace but nothing happened," said Mr Ojeda. "I think it's fine for him to keep it for a few months, but he can't just take something that I wrote."

It isn't clear whether Mr Ojeda's comments are motivated by principled objection to the note being exploited for political gain, or by a straightforward desire to make a fast buck by selling what will one day be a historic artefact.

They are, however, the latest sign that relations between Mr Pinera and the 33 miners have deteriorated since early October, when the President shook hands with each of the men as they emerged from the mine. In January, a lawyer for four of the rescued men claimed that the President had quietly reneged on a pledge to pay their medical bills for at least six months.

Like many of the men, Mr Ojeda has perhaps also found that the life-altering riches he was promised after the 69-day ordeal are harder to come by than he thought.

Though the men have travelled the world, appearing everywhere from Disneyland to Old Trafford to the Vatican, they have yet to achieve financial security. Some are now working as motivational speakers. Others are considering a return to mining.

A lawsuit against the owners of the San Jose mine is in progress, though their firm is in bankruptcy. Meanwhile the Hollywood talent agency WME has for months been trying to sell the official "life rights" to "Los 33" to movie studios and publishing houses. But no deal has yet been announced.

More Mine Memorabilia

*The Phoenix Two rescue pod which brought the trapped Chilean miners to the surface has become the subject of a quarrel between the Chilean Navy (which built it) and the mine. It is now thought to be worth around $1m (£618,000).

*Mario Sepulveda, one of "Los 33", brought a bag of rocks to the surface and gave them to children as souvenirs. One was later presented to the Queen.

*Days before their rescue, the miners sent mementos of their ordeal to the surface, including signed Chilean flags and dirty clothes.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible