As the flag of Chile flew in the background (right, top center), Ben Aspillaga, the Georgetown Tigers’ top tennis player, held up his own flag and posed with his fellow Chileans. The men, from left: José Baeza, Arial Gutierrez, Aspillaga, and Gustavo Echevirría. The women, from left: Nicole Muller, Paula Silva, Camila Espinoza and Dani Fuentes.
Jim Durham, News Bureau Director
The eight natives of Chile who are currently students at Georgetown College came together late Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 13) in Giddings Circle to rejoice and celebrate the miraculous rescue of the 33 trapped miners that was taking place in their homeland.
All day in their honor, the flag of Chile flew in place of the Georgetown College flag – alongside the American and Kentucky flags. The eight were bursting with Chilean pride, but at the same time grateful to God – and for the thoughts and prayers from the campus community.
Junior Arial Gutierrez was almost overcome with his gratitude to the world – and the College – for reaction to the terrible earthquakes that rocked the South American nation in February as well as to this 69-day San Jose Mine ordeal. “This past year we’ve lived with such strong emotions,” said the junior majoring in International Business with an emphasis in Culture and U.S. “Georgetown has supported us (through) our victories and failures…and our pain. We can all celebrate the (mine) rescue as a victory.”
“If you didn’t think there was a God before, here’s proof,” added Dani Fuentes, a senior Communications major/Economics minor and one of seven who went to high school at the College’s partner high school in Temuco, Chile – Colegio Bautista. “I was home for two weeks in August…watching (updates) on television every day. So, for the miners to come out alive is amazing and I’m praising God for it.”
Fuentes, who is one of President Bill Crouch’s 22 President’s Ambassadors, was quick to acknowledge the help of the United States and other countries in the rescue mission that at least for awhile seems to have brought peoples of the world together. “I am so thankful that other countries had the technology and sent such great support,” she said.
Nicole Muller, a senior Business Administration major/History minor, on the flipside said, “I am very proud of my government for looking for more professionals and more resources” to make the rescue successful and sooner than expected. (According to the Associated Press: No one has ever been trapped so long and survived.) “I’m feeling proud to be a Chilean because the miners, their families and the rescuers didn’t give up.”
Ben Aspillaga, who plays No. 1 for the Tigers tennis team and one of three Chileans on the squad, echoed the unanimous pride-in-country sentiment – especially from a media coverage standpoint. “I loved that people from around the world were saying good things about my country in the newspapers and on television,” said the Business major and Santiago native.
On the campus front, Aspillaga said, “It made me feel really good that all my (Phi Kappa Tau) fraternity brothers were coming up to me…excited about the good news.”
His tennis teammates Gustavo Echevirría and José Baeza, both freshmen from Temuco, were visibly appreciative that their coach, Layton Register, interrupted practice and drove them from East Campus to Giddings Circle to unite with their countrymen. “I am so glad to be a Chilean in the U.S.,” said Echevirría, a Business Administration major. “Being here and feeling so Chilean with patriotic feelings…” said Baeza, an International Business major, his voice trailing off.
Paula Silva, a senior at Universidad Catolica de Temuco, and Camila Espinoza, a senior at Universidad de la Frontera (Temuco), are at Georgetown just for this semester and seemed especially comforted to be with other “Georgetown Chileans” on Wednesday. Said Silva, “(In a way) I’m sad I’m here because when I left Chile we didn’t know the miners would come out alive. It’s a miracle!”