Friday, October 13, 2006

Alive! a Uruguayan story

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A day like today, friday 13th, thirty four years ago, a plane departed from Montevideo, carrying a team of young uruguayan rugby players and relatives, former students of the Stella Maris high school to play in Chile, only that it never made it to their destination, Santiago.

The plane crashed in the Andes mountains, and an odyssey of seventy two days started. The survivors of the plane crash had to endure extremely cold temperatures, starvation, and more deads. In their desperation they resorted to eating human flesh of the dead in order to survive.

The true story inspired several books, and a movie, called Alive, starred by Ethan Hawke. I remember getting angry with the movie cause I felt it lacked references to Uruguay, and was not very accurate on some stuff, like calling mate "tea" in the first scenes where the pilots are drinking mate.

The different portrayals of the story, in particular the books, are filled with details, of the everyday life in those conditions, how they fed on chocolate and whatever food resources they had at first, the avalanche they went through in the middle of the night that killed some of them, and how they were able to receive radio transmissions and listened when the rescue parties gave up the search for them.

Finally when they realized that they could count on no one other than God and themselves they organized a trip that would go looking for help. The three person party that would search for help was formed by the fittest of them. Recently National Geographic released an article where a team recreated the trip Roberto Canessa, Nando Parrado, and Antonio Vizintín did in their quest for help, and they say it's a tough trip to do, even for trained people with the proper equipment.

When they were rescued the story was huge with the press, and they went through tough times explaining the flesh eating. My mother told me once that the argentinean press was really hard on them, and labeled them cannibals.

Living in Uruguay meant listening about this story along the years, and sometimes even crossing the survivors in the streets of Montevideo. When I was a teenager there were a couple of black humor jokes going around about Parrado in relation to the flesh eating issue.

Today Parrado is a national TV personality that can be watched every Sunday in a eternal program called Vertigo (about cars & rally racing), and goes around the world giving motivational conferences based on his experience. He's written the last book released on the subject, called: "Miracle in the Andes, which word is it's good, since it's first hand.

I guess is one of those examples when reality beats fiction, It's an incredible story about human survival against all odds, and adaptation to extreme conditions. One that makes one proud of being Uruguayan.

(picture taken from the official site of the andes tragedy)
...

20 comments:

Horazio said...

It's so sad that after going through hell those men were also attacked by the press.
Were they supposed to feel ashamed and guilty for having survived ?!

gabo_uy said...

I started reading parrado's new book, so far so good, the only awkward thing is that is written in a kind of neutral spanish, so it doesn't feel very uruguayan in their dialogs. I think he wrote it in english and had it translated.

These guys went through a frozen hell, Parrado in particular, he was unconscious for the first three days, by the time he woke up, his mother, and his two best friends had died, and his little sister died in his arms soon after.

I'll tell you later if he mentions anything about press harassment.

gabo_uy said...

Last night I finished the book, and yes there are some references to sensationalist media spreading the rumor about them killing mates to eat them.

The book provides an interesting insight in the process parrado went through.

Now I want to read the first one, called Alive!.

Anonymous said...

my mom grew up with those guys in grade school in montevideo. when the movie came out, she never wanted to see it- i don't blame her.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff mate. Will be visiting your country in Nov from Australia and found your blog very informative. Can't wait to be submerged in your culture.

nada said...

al australiano: cuidado con la billetera

Linda Marie said...

I can't wait to visit Uruguay. It sounds like an awsome place to live. I've been very inspired by the 16 men that survived on the mountain, and made it home. Living in Northeastern Wisconsin, I know it must have been pure hell in the cold. Can't wait to read Nando's version of events.

Anonymous said...

I am a uruguayan woman living in the usa for some years now.These men make me proud to be one.They showed us what "garra charrua" really means

b0wo said...

hai im from indonesia...actualy the book title ALIVE just translate into our language....wow its amazing http://j4zz.blogspot.com/2007/04/16-orang-72-hari-di-neraka-salju.html

Anonymous said...

my uncles are roberto canessa and roy harley. they were in the crash. im good friends with nando parrado.

Sheila said...

Absolutely inspirational how these brave men have handled the death, sacrifice & celebration of their friend's (& acquaintances equally) lives is beautiful....spiritually inspired!

It proves false the moral of the stories - the Animal Farm & Lord of the Flies - which purport the inevitability of Man's evil being superior to his good. They have shown each and every year that their consistent and unfailing love can conquer all!

They tamed and controlled the animal in the man....which is the highest spiritual calling! Not only that, but they prove to us every day...in their memorial to their friends, how honorable and noble we truly can be, if we choose!

Just as they did not lose faith in saving their friends....they show us not to lose faith in God's promise that LOVE CAN CONQUER ALL!

They used the bodies of their friends to live, but they converted something that could have been abhorrent into something beautiful, by dedicating their lives to make their sacrifice & their Kharma eternal - through their lives, their children's lives, and their grandchildren's lives...etc.

They have turned a tragedy (where they died and would be forgotten by all but their families now) into a story of the eternal hope one can believe in - because their selfless.

They not only showed this by their selfless and unfailing faith in God and their friends, but in their belief that our higher purpose should be rewarded.....Canessa and Nando did not need to go back for their friends, they did not need to give each other moral support...they did not need to risk wasting their life and energy...they could have given up....thought and acted on evil thoughts....felt sorry for themselves and hated....and ultimately served no one.

But they decided on the path Jesus would (and did take) - they believed in the power of love and God....and more, they have spent their lives worshipping the sacrifice their fallen friends made to give prolong life...but, see....they were already dead...however these heros have added depth and beauty to their tragedy...but, telling the world how wonderful they were...giving them back their life...reminding the world they mattered!

What I love most about their story....is that you show me (who loses hope in the silly things we do to each other in this life) that Jesus's sacrifice was not in vain! HIS LOVE is being demonstrated by their group of heros, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King etc...

I hope above all else that these heros learn to forgive themselves, because as long as they do not....they fail to give their friends the nobility that they deserve for their sacrifice!

Peace be with you and God bless! Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely inspirational how these brave men have handled the death, sacrifice & celebration of their friend's (& acquaintances equally) lives is beautiful....spiritually inspired!

It proves false the moral of the stories - the Animal Farm & Lord of the Flies - which purport the inevitability of Man's evil being superior to his good. They have shown each and every year that their consistent and unfailing love can conquer all!

They tamed and controlled the animal in the man....which is the highest spiritual calling! Not only that, but they prove to us every day...in their memorial to their friends, how honorable and noble we truly can be, if we choose!

Just as they did not lose faith in saving their friends....they show us not to lose faith in God's promise that LOVE CAN CONQUER ALL!

They used the bodies of their friends to live, but they converted something that could have been abhorrent into something beautiful, by dedicating their lives to make their sacrifice & their Kharma eternal - through their lives, their children's lives, and their grandchildren's lives...etc.

They have turned a tragedy (where they died and would be forgotten by all but their families now) into a story of the eternal hope one can believe in - because their selfless.

They not only showed this by their selfless and unfailing faith in God and their friends, but in their belief that our higher purpose should be rewarded.....Canessa and Nando did not need to go back for their friends, they did not need to give each other moral support...they did not need to risk wasting their life and energy...they could have given up....thought and acted on evil thoughts....felt sorry for themselves and hated....and ultimately served no one.

But they decided on the path Jesus would (and did take) - they believed in the power of love and God....and more, they have spent their lives worshipping the sacrifice their fallen friends made to give prolong life...but, see....they were already dead...however these heros have added depth and beauty to their tragedy...but, telling the world how wonderful they were...giving them back their life...reminding the world they mattered!

What I love most about their story....is that you show me (who loses hope in the silly things we do to each other in this life) that Jesus's sacrifice was not in vain! HIS LOVE is being demonstrated by their group of heros, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King etc...

I hope above all else that these heros learn to forgive themselves, because as long as they do not....they fail to give their friends the nobility that they deserve for their sacrifice!

Peace be with you and God bless! Bravo!

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