In Montevideo, one man has created a museum that pays tribute to an event that shocked the world.
Of all the exhibits, it's the shoe that is perhaps the most poignant. In 1972, Eugenia Parrado bought a pair of small red shoes in Mendoza for her daughter's new baby. She and her other daughter Susana were accompanying her son Nando's rugby team from their home in Montevideo, Uruguay, to Santiago, along with other supporters, for a match against a top Chilean squad.
Their plane, a Fairchild FH-227D, chartered from the Uruguayan Air Force, had been diverted to Mendoza in Argentina due to bad weather, finally taking off the following day. It crashed, high in the Andes.
"It was one of those moments you never forget," says Jorg Thomsen, director of The Andes 1972 Museum. Thomsen had friends among the missing, but in the small city of Montevideo, so did many others.
"My best friend's father was driving us home from school and he turned on the radio," Thomsen says. "The news came on with two announcers taking turns to read the names of the missing - 45 in all - so many well-known names. We were in total shock. Later I went downtown and there was a mass at the church, thousands of people crowding outside. I found it incomprehensible that all these people believed it possible anyone could still be alive."
But there were survivors. Despite the odds, including a subsequent avalanche, 62 days after the accident Nando Parrado (23) and Roberto Canessa (19) set out on a perilous trek over a 4650-metre-high mountain to the Chilean border.
Ten days later, they finally chanced upon a muleteer who raised the alarm, triggering the subsequent rescue of the remaining 14 survivors.
The details of the story caused shock around the world. With no food left, and with horror and reluctance, the survivors had resorted to eating the flesh of their dead friends - a moral quandary explored in the global-hit Netflix movie Society of the Snow, which has been shortlisted for four Oscars.
In 2013, Thomsen opened the museum in Montevideo to pay tribute to the survivors, with whom he remains good friends, and the dead, and to honour a forgotten hero, their rescuer, the Chilean muleteer Sergio Catalan, who played a key role in the rescue.
Occupying three floors of one of Montevideo's oldest buildings, the museum features recorded interviews, newspaper articles, photographs, models and artifacts from the crash; from the sleeping bags made from seat insulation to a copy of the letter Roberto Canessa threw across the river to their rescuer, explaining who they were.
It's compelling and deeply moving.
And that red shoe? It was a talisman. Whenever there was an expedition to try to find a way out of the valley, one shoe would be taken - with a promise to reunite the pair. (The second was lost when the Uruguayan government set fire to the plane after the survivors were rescued.)
Some weeks later, coincidentally I am flying part of the same route - from Mendoza to Santiago and looking down at the jagged spine of the Andes, I'm awed afresh by the will and fortitude of these then-young men.
Standard entrance tickets to the Andes 1972 Museum are $US8 ($12) or $US50 for a guided tour. See mandes.uy
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