One of the myths surrounding the 33 miners who were so dramatically rescued after being trapped for 69 days deep inside a Chilean copper mine is that they're all millionaires and no longer need to work. The reality? Nearly half the men have been unemployed since their mine collapsed one year ago tomorrow, and just one, the flamboyant Mario Sepulveda, has managed to live well off the fame. Most have signed up to give motivational speeches, but so far, four go back to work underground to pound rock for a living. Lawsuits filed by "Los 33" amount to $27 million, but only 19 stand to profit as the others were employed by separate mining contractors, and the legal battle will likely take years.
Despite rumors that miners got rich off media interviews, most got only paid trips, hotel stays, and the kinds of gifts that don't put food on tables. Fifteen are unemployed; seven regularly give motivational speeches; three hawk fruit and vegetables in the street, and two have small grocery stores. Others are unable to work due to continuing psychological symptoms, and receive a fraction of their former salaries as government medical payments. Edison Pena, who ran in the New York marathon, appeared on US talk shows, and is known for his love of Elvis Presley, confessed to El Mercurio that it has been hard to keep the celebrity-worship going. His wife told the paper that their life "is as dark as the mine was." (Click to read about the miners' R-rated request while they were underground, or relive last year's saga.)