69 days underground.
6 alleged mistresses.
$27 million dollars at stake.
In a matter of hours news of the Chilean miners' rescue has turned from heroism to a Fox reality competition. It began while Yonni Barrios Rojas was still underground. His request to have both his wife, Marta, and his mistress Susana present at his rescue sparked a flurry of "copycat" revelations, as five other women alleging extra-marital affairs with trapped miners came forth.
"There has been a lot of conflict between women," on-site Red Cross worker, Marta Flores, told the London Telegraph. "We had a big bust up in the canteen tent when a wife came across a woman who claimed to be her husband's lover - we had to step in and pull them apart before things got physical. Unfortunately the conflict stems from money issues."
Big money is on the table. Government handouts for missed wages during the ordeal is being allotted to the miners' families. Then there's the $27 million lawsuit against the mining company, and the endorsement, book and film deals being buzzed about.
Certainly, the miners' wives, who've stood in wait for their loved ones, forgoing work and enduring immeasurable stress, are entitled to compensation. But entitlement is muddier for the mistresses.
Questions about the extent of their relationships to the miners in the face of a cash prize has surfaced, and already a few of the alleged other women have taken their hands out of the pot.
But in the case of Susana, Rojas' mistress, there is no question of mutual commitment, considering she was the first person he hoped to see on the outside. She, like Marta, missed work and lost sleep to sit vigil for her loved one.
Other men are believed to have kids with their mistresses, according to the Telegraph, which means a lot more was stake during the ordeal than just a broken heart. It's also been suggested that some women didn't even know they were mistresses.
Certainly, a legal document of binding marriage holds weight in a court of law, but in a country where extended family loyalty and group child-rearing is watermark of national pride, ethics come into play.
"Group loyalty is utterly important in Chile," writes Margaret Snook, an anthropologist who's long studied Chilean culture. "Any adult will have concentric circles of participation in and responsibility toward the groups he or she has formed over the course of a lifetime."
Don't secondary "wives" and certainly, shared children, count as family members?
Then there's the issue of free love. In a 2008 Newsweek article, journalist Ashley Steinberg examines the changing tide of sexual politics in the country. A growing movement of youth-driven public orgies, called ponceos, have stirred controversy in an otherwise conservative nation. Hundreds of teenagers, dubbed Pokemones, gather in public parks to engage in sexual activity with anonymous partners of both genders. Boasting about the number of conquests in one night is commonplace.
"Sexuality becomes another iteration of the same model their parents follow: identity expressed through quantity," Juan Bastian, advocacy director at the Chilean Family Planning Association, tells Newsweek.
While the miners, in their 40s and 50s, belong to the parent's generation to which Bastian refers, the counter-culture movement may be indicative of a larger trend.
"In a country where abortion is banned and divorce was legalized only a few years ago, and where the specter of Augusto Pinochet's authoritarian regime still hovers over political discourse, the Pokemones are at once radical and inevitable," writes Steinberg in the article.
Perhaps the same can be said for the older generation's mistress population. Chile is hardly France, where affairs have long been accepted as a facet of monogamy, but there may be a burgeoning movement towards acceptance. The reasons range from sexual experimentation and family loyalty to the trend of gathering armies of partners. On the other hand, the miner revelations could be an isolated circumstance, born out of an extreme situation. Likely the affairs would never have come to light if they hadn't been knotted up in this underground ordeal. Was this unique challenge just an ultraviolet light --the kind that makes stains visible on just about anything?
Rojas's wife, Marta, understandably hopes that's not the case. "He is my husband. He loves me and I am his devoted wife," she told press. "This other woman has no legitimacy." As of today, the other woman has agreed to forgo any rewards.