For the best experienceDownload the Mobile App
App Store Play Store
‘Society of the Snow’ Shows Us How Far We’ll Go to Survive
‘Society of the Snow’ Shows Us How Far We’ll Go to Survive
‘Society of the Snow’ Shows Us How Far We’ll Go to Survive

Published on: 05/15/2024

Description

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Keep It Rural, an email newsletter from the Daily Yonder. Like what you see?  Join the mailing list for more rural news, thoughts, and analysis in your inbox each week.


Stripped of our most basic needs — water, food, shelter — people become barbaric and inhumane, or at least that’s what the stories we tell each other say. 

This is what I was told of the Donner Party, the infamous pioneer group that in 1846 trekked from Missouri to California hoping to get lucky in the Gold Rush. But when they tried to cross the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the group got stuck in a snowstorm that left them stranded for four months in the extreme cold without food. 

Some of the group resorted to cannibalism to survive, a choice the media sensationalized as cruel and immoral. The fuller story — the one about who the families were, the horrors they witnessed and inflicted, and how they were eventually saved — became a footnote and nothing more. We hear the Donner Party’s story from the comfort of our insulated houses and stocked refrigerators and think we could never stoop to that level of desperation, but is that really true?

This is the question I’ve been asking myself since watching Society of the Snow, a Netflix movie released earlier this year about the true story of an Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes in 1972. This is another brutal survival story in an unforgiving mountain range far from civilization, and spoiler alert: there is cannibalism. But this movie approaches the topic more sensitively than other media has. Society of the Snow gives the viewer a real sense of what it might be like to live in this survival situation, and makes you wonder what you would be capable of doing if your life was on the line. 

On October 13, 1972, an Uruguayan airplane carrying 45 passengers and crew departed from Mendoza, Argentina, on its way to Santiago, Chile. On board were 19 rugby players accompanied by their friends and family, along with a few unrelated passengers. 

As they flew over the Andes, the pilot misdirected the plane into a snowy ridge and was unable to correct in time before hitting the mountain face. The plane’s tail cone and both wings snapped off as it plummeted into a remote valley. Twelve passengers died instantly, and the other 33 had various injuries. Within the first 10 days, another six people died as the group waited for a rescue crew to find them. 

As the days passed, it became clear that the group was on their own. They learned that the rescue mission had been called off from a radio signal they were able to tune into using equipment they salvaged from the remains of the plane. Upon learning this, the survivors realized they needed to face the question of food as soon as possible if they wanted even the slimmest chance of survival. The group’s only food source was the dead bodies of their fellow passengers, and for many of the survivors, these passengers were their teammates, family members, and friends. 

Unlike so many other tellings of this story (and there have been many over the 50-some years since the plane crash), Society of the Snow explores just how painful, but ultimately necessary, this choice was to the survivors. Many of them don’t do it at first; they wait out their pangs of hunger for as long as physically possible. But after many frank conversations about cannibalism (and one surprisingly touching scene where the remaining survivors announce that if they die, they give permission for the others to eat their bodies), everyone does it. 

While cannibalism is a central part of this movie, it’s not sensationalized. This choice, and this offering from the survivors, comes from a deeply selfless and even spiritual place, and the movie shows that. In an NPR interview with the movie’s director Juan Antonio Bayona, he said “there is something beautiful in the way these people gave themselves to the other ones, that kind of ritual where they offer their bodies in case their friends needed it.” 

There’s a scene that I will remember for a long time where one of the surviving rugby players, Arturo, is speaking to his teammate Numa about faith. He says, from his perch inside the plane’s broken body stuck high in the Andes, that he has “more faith now than [he’s] ever had.” But his faith isn’t in the same god as his teammates, many of them devout Roman Catholics. 

Arturo’s god is in the friend who’s treated his and everybody else’s wounds, in the legs of another friend who’s been training to walk down from the mountains toward civilization, in yet another friend who cuts the meat of the dead bodies in private so the other survivors don’t have to know who they’re eating. He believes in himself and the people around him, and it’s this faith that keeps him going.

In the end, 16 of the 45 passengers survive after spending 72 days in the most extreme conditions imaginable. Without the flesh of their fallen friends, none of them would have made it out. 

This movie finally does the Uruguayans’ story justice, and it’s made me think about how we talk about the Donner Party, another tale famous for cannibalism. It’s a totally different story, and in many ways much more complicated: the Donner Party was a group of white settlers who on their journey west to claim land and strike gold encountered Native Americans whom they treated with extreme hostility, according to archaeologists. In the Sierras, one member of the Donner Party murdered two Native Americans who had been traveling with them as guides. Their story isn’t just one of survival but of violence, hubris, and Manifest Destiny. 

But like the Uruguayans, the Donner Party’s survival is at once a tragedy and a miracle. More than half of the 87 pioneers survived some of the most harrowing conditions a person can endure. Many were children at the time and went on to live long lives shaped by their time in the wilderness. 

Both stories show what humans will do when we’re stripped of the comforts that separate us from our animal siblings. To me, the choice the Uruguayans and the Donner Party make is not evidence of desperation or some sort of inherent immorality but a testament to the human will to survive against all odds. And isn’t there something beautiful about that? 

The post ‘Society of the Snow’ Shows Us How Far We’ll Go to Survive appeared first on The Daily Yonder.

News Source : https://dailyyonder.com/society-of-the-snow-shows-us-how-far-well-go-to-survive/2024/05/15/

Other Related News

NAZ Elite This Week: Krissy Gear to compete at Prefontaine Classic in steeplechase as part of buildup to Trials
NAZ Elite This Week: Krissy Gear to compete at Prefontaine Classic in steeplechase as part of buildup to Trials

05/24/2024

NAZ Elites Krissy Gear will be at the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday racing in the steepl...

Habitat for Humanity to break ground on new starter homes in Timber Sky
Habitat for Humanity to break ground on new starter homes in Timber Sky

05/24/2024

Habitat For Humanity of Northern Arizona will be breaking ground on a new affordable housi...

Memorial Weekend DUI Patrol Throughout Prescott
Memorial Weekend DUI Patrol Throughout Prescott

05/24/2024

Through grant funding made possible by the Arizona Governors Office of Highway Safety the ...

Arizona Snowbowl to remain open until June 1 after receiving 281 inches this season
Arizona Snowbowl to remain open until June 1 after receiving 281 inches this season

05/24/2024

The Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort announced it will remain open until June 1

Prescott Valley Public Works Names Employees of Year
Prescott Valley Public Works Names Employees of Year

05/24/2024

In conjunction with National Public Works Week May 19-25 the Town of Prescott Valleys Publ...

ShoutoutGive Shoutout
500/500