Greenpoint, October, 2015

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Calama Settles for Copper

When I told our Chilean colleagues that we would fly to Calama for our free days, they did a double take. Then I explained we would drive from there to San Pedro, an oasis in the Atacama desert. Everyone was relieved. "Calama is the place you run away from," they said. And yet, getting off the plain directly onto the tarmac of the tiny Calama airport, in the middle of winter, ....

Our flight there, on Sunday afternoon, was almost entirely made up of men. They had the look of people who'd done it before. Miners, construction workers, and possibly astronomers at the ALMA observatory ("mostly Russian, mostly men," our guide told us on the way to the Chaxa lagoons from San Pedro.)

On the way back, the two-hour delay meant waiting for boarding in a temporary (?) gate area: Plenty of men hunched over portable devices watching or listening to the Brazil-Germany match. "Cinco!" one fellow announced to those of us in line. Germany had stuck its fifth goal in the first half of what turned out to be a shellacking of the home team. Everybody was in good spirits, since Brazil had eliminated Chile's fine side on penalty kicks in the last round.
(Photo: T. Blythe)
Calama, as a city, would not exist if it were not for the copper deposits in its outlying regions, which gives the desert a greenish tinge. In the rotary by the airport, the city honors its provider. A sun and a bar of copper.

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