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Andes Crash Survivors Return to Chile


On October 13, 1972, a plane crashed in the Andes. The story that followed is a well-known tale of human survival and overcoming the elements, portrayed in movies such as Alive.

SANTIAGO — I Love Chile joined a press gathering at the Sheraton Hotel where fifteen survivors of the crash in the Andes gathered ahead of the annual sporting clash between Old Christians of Uruguay and Old Boys, representing The Grange School.

Painted on each face was a tale of hardship. Piers Paul Read’s book Alive was recently reviewed for The Guardian, after releasing a 40th anniversary edition. Within the narrative it shows not just a tale of survival, but the deep despair of the men involved. “Often, he records a despair so real it seeps through the pages, while the narrative rarely pushes an image of straightforward heroism.”

The most emotional moment of the evening was reserved for the arrival of Sergio Catalan. Now at 90 years of age, it was Catalan who encountered Roberto Canessa and Nando Parrado after they had struggled for ten days across the mountains. Upon his arrival, all of the Uruguayan men stood up from the table in a mark of respect. “Don Sergio” was given a place of honor at the front of the room.
MG 6000 133x200 Andes Crash Survivors Return to Chile to Mark 40 Years

Sergio Catalán reunited with the Andes survivors once again. Photo: Mario Téllez, Prensa Old Boys

After the survivors had struggled through the mountains, Catalan went on horseback to alert the authorities and begin the rescue process.

The Uruguayan men will today hold a private meeting with Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, while tomorrow’s activities will focus on the sporting friendship developed between the two clubs. What began as a Rugby clash has expanded to included hockey and soccer and a range of activities. Many of the children and grandchildren of the survivors are now involved in playing.

President Piñera will be presented with a signed jersey, similar to that used in 1972, as an expression of thanks to Chile for the help in their survival.

This year’s events will take place at the new facilities of the Old Grangonian club in Chicureo throughout the day on Saturday October 13.

Many of the survivors mentioned that the values built through training as a team had helped them overcome the struggle. A number also expressed that what they encountered in the Andes was a problem for them, but something they were able to overcome. Many detailed that problems within a family and long-term health problems are much harder to overcome.

The men also detailed their work with Fundacion Viven (Alive Foundation). The foundation aims to build values such as love, respect, courage as well as increase the awareness of the importance of organ donors.

It was clear to see the deep bond between both the survivors, their family and the Chilean community that welcomed them. Survivor Álvaro Mangino said, “To me, the friendship between the school and the club is something we must keep forever, passing down from generation to generation.”

Written by Daniel Boyle on October 12, 2012.
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