Category Archives: Natural Disasters

Miners & Media: True Life Reality Show

Where is the fine line between bringing human interest into the news and invasion of privacy? As the world hungered for more of the unfolding story of Chile’s 33 trapped miners, media coverage of this tragedy with a happy ending drew its share of criticism. And now that the excitement has wound down and these guys are heading into the aftermath, I can’t help but reflect on what lies ahead for them.

President Sebastian Piñera & 33 miners in Copiapó Hospital (Photo by José Manuel de la Maza, courtesy of the Presidencia de la República de Chile)

Privacy, Human Interest, or Media Circus

I hopped into a Santiago taxi shortly before 8:00 PM on Tuesday, October 12, anxious to get home. The rescue mission was scheduled to begin, and I had 33 miners on my mind. I asked the driver about the news. And, as often happens when I talk with cabbies, he gave me something to think about. Continue reading


33 Miners: Comin’ Up!


Rescate Minero- 1º en salir, Florencio Ávalos

12:15 AM Miner Florencio Ávalos, the first miner to reach the surface


Back Story: Copiapó, northern Chile. A shaft in the San José copper and gold mine collapsed on Aug 5, trapping 33 miners inside. Early attempts to rescue them failed, apparently sealing their fate. Days passed. Hope dwindled. Whispers of “no air,” “extreme heat,” “no food; no water; no light” made the rounds. More time passed. Talk of stopping the rescue efforts began, but the families of these 33 men refused to give up hope.

“They’re miners,” they said. “They know what they’re doing, and they are alive down there,” they insisted. And they were right. Continue reading

Piñerisms 1: Marepoto & Tusunami

PiñipediaChile’s new president, Sebastian Piñera, not only leans to the right like George Bush, but it seems he went to the same school of public speaking. Much to the glee of news buffs, language hawks, and yes, even T-shirt makers, Piñera delighted us all with a bit of unintended levity, not once, but twice, in the aftermath of the recent earthquake. Continue reading

Chile Quake Wine People Project. Day 1 Chimbarongo

Wednesday, March 17. Day 1: Chimbarongo, Colchagua Valley

Friend and photographer Mari Correa and I set out on Wednesday, March 17 to begin our trip south to visit wineries in the earthquake zone. We are just beginning a project sponsored by Wines of Chile and this is the first of several such trips over the coming months to document what happened in the wineries and how the people—more than the companies—are coping today and where they’re heading tomorrow. Continue reading

Iniciación a los 8,8 grados

The following is an article originally commissioned by Chile’s El Mercurio newspaper for a special segment on the February 27 earthquake. They had asked me as a foreign resident and anthropologist to write on my personal reflections on my experience of the quake that had occurred less than a week prior. In the end the story got bumped by another written by a famous Mexican author who happened to be in town at the time. These things do happen; but I like the piece and offer it up to you, uncut and unedited, with my apologies for any unwitting gringuismos, Spanglish, and grammatical faux pax.

Continue reading

Chilean Wine People: the stories behind the quake

Dear Cachando Chile Readers…

I will be pretty much off-line for the next few days as I take some time to visit the wineries in the areas most affected by Chile’s recent earthquake.

As many of you know, I work in Chile’s wine industry, writing about and translating for many of the country’s wineries. As I’m sure most of you also know, many of the wineries south of Santiago were badly affected by the recent earthquake. Continue reading

Chile’s Earthquake: An Architect’s Perspective

Sebastian Gray, Architect

Sebastian Gray, Architect

In the aftermath of one of the strongest earthquakes on record, the world has turned its eyes to Chile and has been amazed at how relatively little structural damage was done in comparison with lesser quakes in other parts of the world. I asked my friend Sebastian Gray, an architect and professor at the Universidad Católica de Chile, for answers to the many questions on my mind about issues of architectural safety, earthquake resistance, and seismic considerations in Chilean building codes and structural design.

First: where is the safest place in the house? Continue reading

Chile’s Earthquake-Santiago Aftermath

It’s been a long week. I posted my personal experience of last week’s earthquake immediately after it occurred, but then, as the news began to show  the depths of the tragedy that hit this country in ever greater detail, I found it harder and harder to write about it. Like everyone here, I thought of little else, but it’s not easy to wrap one’s mind around something of this 8.8 magnitude. I’m sure there are many of us in Chile who have recalled the expression “there but for the grace of God go I” this week. With knotted stomach and wrenched heart, my thoughts have gone round and round and changed so often that it has been hard to pin them down at any one time.

My words are now starting to come back, but let’s start with pictures… Continue reading