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30th Anniversary
Interview with Jose Luis Inciarte: December 1997
- Why did you come back to the tragedy place twenty-five years after it?
- It wasn’t the first time I was there after the accident. I had already been there two years before with some friends I lived the Andes experience with. But this time was different because my wife and my three kids came with me. They stayed at San Fernando (180 kilometers to the south of Santiago), the village where Fernando Parrado and Roberto Canessa were seen in December 1972, when the laborer rescued them.

- What was your feeling when you saw that landscape from which, 25 years ago, the only thing you wanted was escape?
- It was a big impression and an extraordinary emotion. Not because of the things I lived there in 1972, but because I understood what my two friends Roberto Canessa and Fernando Parrado, to whom I owe my life, did when they decided to go walking through the snow to find some help. What they did, nobody, but absolutely nobody, can do it. The mountaineers who went with us told that not even the “guanacos”, which are animals used to that weather conditions, got to walk and move through the mountain like Canessa and Parrado did.

- What dramatic moments from the Andes accident did you keep in your mind?
- I’ll never forget what Canessa said to me when we where in the plane and we heard on the radio that the rescue teams had stopped the search: “We die looking each other faces, or we die walking.” They had the courage to walk without a certain course and they saved 14 people who remained at the plane’s fuselage. I had already set in the Andes, as a limit, the 25 December or I would die. And I would have died because I had already lost 45 kilos and I hadn’t enough strength to survive.

- How did your wife and kids live this trip?
- It was very moving for all of us. My wife lived it in a very special way, because we had already started the relationship when all this happened. We started dating at the age of 19 and she went to Santiago to see me when we were rescued. So she is part of this story too. My kids lived an unforgettable human adventure. Not only did they live the geographical context of the story –which I told them many times when they were little-, but they could also consolidate the ties of friendship, that already existed, with the kids of the others survivors who traveled with us. And they remained, or we all remained very impressed by the respect and the admiration, which even today, the Andes story generates in San Fernando.

- How did you live this trip?
- Never in my entire life did I receive such a warm tribute like the one that the inhabitants of there played to us. Almost all the village was there and we had the pleasure of participating in a mass celebrated by Andres Rojas, the priest who received us in 1972 when we were rescued. Rojas, in those times was recently ordained and it was the one who celebrated the mass on the unforgettable Christmas of 1972. The doctor who assisted us in San Francisco 25 years ago were also there. We cried a lot.

- You said that your children gave last week in Chile, a geographical context to the story they have heard so many times. How did you tell them what you live at the mountains?
- Since they were little I told them the story as if it was a tale. When they were littlest I used to make gestures as well. I showed them with my hands how did the plane crash. Then, when they were growing, they asked me to tell them more details. “Don’t tell us the things so fast – they said-; we want to know more details.” Sometimes were their friends the ones who wanted to know the story they have heard at their homes or in the school.

- Are you a religious man?
- I’m a man of deep Christian faith, but I don’t practice it in the church, I practice it at the street, in the quotidian life. I don’t go to church to hit my chest; my bet is for Life and I devote myself to it.

- Was the Andes experience a miracle to you?
- Maybe, to many people was a lottery; to me was a miracle. Having survived a crash into a mountain, in which the plane traveled at more than 400 kilometers per hour, was a real miracle. It was a miracle also having survived the avalanche which buried the plane’s fuselage while we were sleeping. It was a miracle that Canessa and Parrado, malnourished, could walk during seven days through the snow, climb mountains of more than 6000 meters high without the appropriate clothes. It was a miracle that Parrado could find with the Chilean Air force the exact place where the plane and the others survivors (including me) were waiting. I don’t know if my family is also a miracle, but what I do I know that is a gift from life.

- How do you see “The Andes Miracle” after twenty-five years?
- I see it as an experience of love, solidarity and commitment. There the friends that couldn’t come back gave the maximum a human being can give, just what Christ did: give his life for the others. I’m in debt with them, they honor the human specie.
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