Utah Chileans gather to celebrate mine rescue

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NORTH SALT LAKE —- The Utah Chilean Community came together Tuesday to watch and cheer the rescue of the 33 trapped miners in the homeland.

The group of Chilean-Americans gathered at home of one of the group's directors watching hours of the "midnight miracle" on Chile television and welcome their heroes back home.


"It makes it special because it's your own people." said Julio Otay, 34, executive president of the Utah Chilean Community, 'I think that somehow we are getting together under one feeling, the safety of everyone in that mine."

They chanted 'Chi-chi-chi, Le-le-le.' They cried. They hugged. They sang "Si Vas Para Chile," a traditional song meaning "If You Go To Chile."

At 12 minutes past midnight Chilean time, or 9:12 p.m. MST, the first miner rose to the surface to screams in the North Salt Lake household.

"Overwhelming. I'll be so happy. I know this is going to take ... it's going to be a long process. It will take some time," Nolberto Castro, 39, chairman of the Utah Chilean Community said. "But just to see the first one coming out there, it's very overwhelming for me."

Luis Calquin, 48, and director of the group, said he wasn't going to sleep Tuesday night, just watch TV. "I'm so proud to be Chilean. Viva Chile....Vamos Chilenos!"

Calquien served his LDS mission in Copiapo, Chile, near where the San Jose mine is located. He said the people there are amazing and he was proud to see them pull together.

All of those gathered to watch have been following the story since day one. And today, the anticipation hit its peak.

Even customers at Chilean Deli at 300 W. 1427 South in Salt Lake City were excited about the rescue. Customers bought Chilean comfort food, such as empanadas, churrasco palta and alfajores, to eat while they watched the event at home.

Chris Gallegos was one of those customers. "I'm here because I'm going to go celebrate. It's pretty big. My family has called me and told me about all the excitement that's going on across the country," he said.

Another Chilean Deli customer, Oliver Valenzuela, said, "It's pretty rare that miners survive. Obviously, it is a miracle. Just the thought of being down there for so long. That is fascinating."

E-mail: ngonzales@ksl.com

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