Whistling the Esperanza

I wrote this song in a night after being fixated by the unfolding plight of the Chilean miners trapped down the San Jose mine. Despite offering a glimpse into an industry where lives are cheap and profits high, it was an event that to me also showed up the great qualities of humanity, solidarity, altruism and endeavour. It seemed like a modern-day epic folk tale.

 

Guitar tuning: Gsus4/4 (CGDGCD)

Lyrics

(Ewan McLennan)

On a still night under darkness men fastened their boots

Their headtorches flickered, their tobacco smoke rose

With the cogs and wheels whirring they were lowered below

As they whistled the Esperanza

 

In the hot dusty air, their picks and drills flew

With the passing of hours the specks of gold grew

Till a deafening roar shook the hill with a blow

And snuffed out their Esperanza

 

As the dust fell and settled the silence gave way

To the miners who lay there untouched and unscathed

But where the rubble had fallen it blocked their retreat

Their hopes were now with San Lorenzo

 

Up above shrill alarm bells greeted the dawn

From their posts men scattered their radios drawn

From the mine the news travelled to the families at home

To the nation and echoed beyond

 

Before long the rescue was planned and in place

There were drillers from Texas brought to join the race

But with six hundred metres of solid rock in their way

Their faces were grim but determined

 

From the length of the country and the hills they soon came

On the sands families gathered to wait and prey for their men

They pitched up their tents there in the hot stinging sun

And they named it Camp Esperanza

 

For the nine weeks that they waited nerves and tempers were frayed

But a school for the children and shrines for the miners were made

There were feuds, there was marriage and a baby was born

All under Camp Esperanza

 

The men crouched below in the heat and the dark

Surviving on rations lowered down the mine shaft

They appointed a doctor and a cook from their ranks

And swore that they’d struggle through together

 

After six days of drilling they finally struck through

To the cavern where the miners joy greeted the view

The tunnel was carved and the line cast down

To where the dust and the tears now ran together

 

The weak were the first on the journey above

Entombed and twisting from the pull and the shove

They rose from the earth on a woven line of steel

To the strains of the band’s Esperanza

 

One by one each miner emerged into the sun

To the thirty three families who stood to welcome their men

Amidst the sand and the rubble the crowds gathered and cheered

And sang for their newly knighted heroes

 

A mother held her son in a careful embrace

A young girl looked on, the warm sun framing her face

As he lifted her up she whispered, Daddy promise me

Your days underground are done

 

Above the San Jose mine the sun shone, the wind blew

In the way that it had since 1892

Still in danger men toil, traded for gold

Still the harsh winds there scatter the topsoil

 

On a still night under darkness men fastened their boots

Their headtorches flickered, their tobacco smoke rose

With the cogs and wheels whirring they were lowered below

As they whistled the Esperanza

 

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