“To the west was Chile”

“The only certain thing: ” To the west was Chile, “- Nando Parrado resumes a survivor’s resolute perspective, “we had to aim to that country”.  Nando Parrado, recants the events that occurred 41 years ago on the 13th of October.  This statement, though erroneous because they were closer and actually in Argentina, is part of the drive that pushed them towards Chile in search for help. A drive that included a combination of absolute determination and the resolve not to give up, even when or as your drive dissipates. In the words of Dr. Viktor Frankl, (though not directly related with this story yet so applicable): “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms” to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. In the words (directly related with this History Channel documentary) of a YouTube playlist description: “This [documentary] taught me to persevere against all odds, and keep walking towards your goal. Draw lessons on courage and inspiration – to stepping into the unknown to accomplish your goals. ” Rohan Ghosh.

It is a telling survival story of a young Uruguayan rugby team, the Old Christians, that crashed landed in the Andes mountains. Their survival story that began on October 13, 1972 and lasted for 72 days. The below 2010 History Channel documentary was made 37 years after the crash.

A necessary distinction that needs to addressed at this point is the clarification is that this story is NOT about cannibalism. Cannibalism has connotations that include the act of killing a human in order to eat that human, homicidal cannibalism. They did not commit such a thing. They did not kill to eat, they ate anthropophagously in order to survive.  An act called anthropophagy: necro cannibalism (in the extreme situation void of any type of nourishment,  the eating of a dead corpse as a source of food).



Last year in 2012, marked the 40th anniversary date of the plane crash and to commemorate the date a special 40th Copa de la Amistad was held in Santiago, Chile. The event included the arrival of two Chilean Airforce UH-1H  helicopters from the original rescue. They arrived and landed on the rugby field, with Nando Parrado on board. Upon landing he and Carlos Paez re-enacted the moment of reunion of the red shoes up in the Andes. The ceremony also included the presence of Sergio Catalan and two Chilean government officials, Minister of Defense, Andres Allamand and Commander in Chief of the Chilean Airforce, Air General,  Jorge Rojas Ávila, Plus the grand symbolic entrance of 16 parachutists using Uruguayan and Chilean flags as parachutes. The Old Christians rugby team played a symbolic commemorative match against members of the Old Grangonian Club rugby team, whom they had been scheduled to face 40 years before. This year, it is the Old Grangonian Club of Chile who will go visit the Old Christians in Uruguay to commemorate the 41st anniversary date.

As a group, since 2006, they collectively formed Fundacion Viven (Alive Foundation) whose mission is to “rescuing communities of people who must survive daily: (1) Through the donation and transplantation of cells, organs and tissues (2) Developing projects in order that individuals and communities who are excluded from society may increase their individual and collective abilities, allowing them to work and earn money, by applying the lessons and values of the Alive Legacy and (3) Contributing to the preservation of the story and the teachings of the accident in the Andes.”

Below,  is an interview from an Argentinean interview program,  “Dicen Que Dicen con Alberto Lotuf” of channel, America 24. The interview introduces Nando Parrada as an international motivational speaker, and his 2006 publication, “Milagro en Los Andes” (Miracles in the Andes) which tells their story and the obstacles they were able to overcome. He also mentions that Nando developed a strategy for unlocking a person’s potential and the procurement of their success at their job and in their life. After these introductory formalities, begins the interview of six key questions.

The 1st question: What changed in your perspective almost 37 years after the event which left such a huge mark on you, your life? Nando’s answer: My life is this one, with that mark. Many people often ask me how would my life be without this accident in it? And I say, that’s a hypothesis, because my life is the one with the accident in it. For 25 years I did not want to talk about it or was given an opportunity – but then I went to Mexico for a conference and then the calls began. . . I don’t want challenges no more but I do want all the experiences possible. I have taken this as a new experience that gives me new knowledge and allows me to share with others how to address and or deal with crisis. In Latin America, a crisis – is only considered economic, to work and finances – but crisis are all types. Many people tell him that it helped them see how a serious problem puts theirs into perspective and helped them to scuba dive within themselves for an answer, a solution. The 2nd question: In perspective of the group, which were the group’s codes, which permitted them to live? How to apply the  code of living can be salvaged/recycled for every day living? Nando’s response: After having spoken with many opinions. . . I have realized that we attain excellence in what you learn in life thru university studies or thru life experience: [we learned] teamwork, leadership, decision making, human resources – [yet] we were simple surviving.  From the outside its a different view, it is romanticized, within the group we were simply battling to survive. Surviving a commensurable battle, where we had much luck and we had a good team.

3rd Question: To go back to the same place, where this experience was born, why? Nando replied: I returned to the place -11 times, my dad 16 times to the place.  Why? Just to leave flowers at our deceases’ placement when they went on to rest eternally.  How many go do this? Many just go to their local cementary, ours is just a little bit further. There are no other connotation of vengeance against the mountain.  4th Question:  What lessons or values are learned from this experience by different groups to whom you present? Nando replied: Depend on the type of public – sometimes its a small business at others a great corporation group.  The groups range in size from as small as 6 to the 22,000 at United States convention of Human Resources. I am not a guru or come to predicate absolutely nothing only to share and leave small hopes for those that have a problem which can be overcome. 5th Question:  What is the legacy of these 16 young beings who lived this experience?  Life speaks for herself. Life takes us through different paths: one can plan, one can desire or want [something] but she takes you. Myself with my book, Miracle in the Andes, I wanted to pay homage to my father.  If you read it, its a book from a son to a father. At the end of his life, I thought: what can I do for him? We had lived so much together (joys and tragedies, shared and mixed)  and I decided to make an homage to him. But as I said before, Life takes us through the paths, ways we are suppose to journey. I had not intended my book to be a best seller, I had only wanted to give something to my father. Destiny guides one’s life because a chain of events occurred. So I do not know what will be the end our legacy, our story of survival.  Just like the Titanic, a story whose story grows with time, and in spite of the passing of time. Ours was a unique maybe even unrepeatable event and many want to take a piece of the story in order to feel connected to it, it helps them. The story is totally beyond us,  it has taken us to many places as well. When I say places I speak of geographical as well as sentimental places  and places where we meet people and exceptional love. Life she takes us to where we need to go.  6th Question: Can you leave with one concrete example of overcoming drawbacks , from your experience up in the Andes which can be used in everyday life. Nando’s reply:  An very clear example is when I reach the peak of the first mountain, I had expected to see green pastures, a road, a cabin with smoke – salvation and yet and I see that I was in the midst of the Andes mountain range. I took the biggest decision of my life in thirty seconds.  I decided at that moment, how I was going to die. So any other decisions in my life, do not match up to this decision. I decided at a very young age how I was going to die crossing this mountain range.



The below documentary called “Stranded” in English is better aptly named in Spanish as “Viven” (they live) since each survivor relives and lives to tell his, their shared experience. The film is long in length, but how otherwise can the many survivors’ perspectives and reflections,  be shortened? This documentary was filmed between 2006 and 2007, 30 years after the crash, and released in 2007.  The film’s approach and presentation leave the viewer with many lingering thoughts and questions. Fate, how much of it in your hands?  Life is, random or purposeful? Why do some live while others die? Why are some lives harder than others? Why such extreme ill fortune or is a better word, “conditions”? And to what end?  A true story of survival that shows how actions or inaction can play in or against your favor. With the big note that BOTH action and inaction being of true value and significance. Ultimately, one cannot escape one’s destiny: what one is suppose to live in this life.

Among this documentary’s accolades, is that it won 3 awards: (1) The Joris Ivens Award at the 2007 Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival; (2) The Grand Prize at the 2008 Boulder International Film Festival; and (3) The Best Documentary Award at the 2008 Miami Film Festival. Plus 4 nominations for the following awards: (1) The Grand Jury Prize of World Cinema-Documentary at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival; (2) The Best Documentary Award at the 2008 European Film Awards; (3) The DGA Award of Outstanding Directional Achievement in Documentary at the 2009 Directors Guild of America, USA; and (4) The IDA Award for Feature Documentary at the 2008 International Documentary Association.

The final video presented is from Tele 50, an Uruguayan television channel special program, “Seguir Viviendo; 40 Anos Despues del Milagro de Los Andes” (Living On: 40 Years After the Miracle of the Andes), in which all the survivors were reunited for the show plus includes footage of all families’ experiences and feelings, even those whose members who did not survive the fateful mountain passing.  As a group, the survivors want other aspects of their experience to be known and also voiced a frustration of how their story’s focus, by the world, has been on the sensationalistic anthropophagy. These survivors begin the program with a before and after of the Disney movie (1993 Alive) . . . a point from which their story has now taken on a new life. Carlos Paez explains that the force of their story has a world theme that has broken the sound barrier because it has harvested 18 books, 3 movies and  9 documentaries and continues to harbor interest. While, Jose Pedro Algorta adds: “[Nuestra historia] paso la barrera – todo el mundo tiene sus cordilleras – para que otros superan las suyas – nuestra historia nos sobrepasa” (Our story crossed boundaries, barriers – everyone has their mountain ranges – in order for others overcome their ranges – our story overshadows, surpasses us).

Within their shared story, they note that the real change occurred on the 11th day, October 23rd, when the rescue missions were suspended and stopped. “From then on we depended on ourselves – If they did not get that “positive” news they would have continued waiting”. . . The  experience of shock, of living as each second lived was to be the last second lived, of living with death and not losing hope (show how man’s endurance of hardship is limitless and as is his or hers adaptability in order to survive). . . . . directing them to a new advanced [type of] society:  where one is not allowed to complain, all goods belong to the community and love is permanent.  Also for others in the group, a development of a rich inner experience when one lives in such extreme survival situations (as their physical experience lowered their existence to primitive levels,  their spiritual experience elevated them). This  is well documented in a book, written from the perspective of existentialism, psychology and of an Auschwitz concentrate survivor – but it clearly describes this living/fate dynamic ….. and Fundi2 mentions it here as a recommended read of the university of Life, since it transcends all geographical, cultural,  mental, spiritual settings and speaks to our humanity.  Written by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning:  “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

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