The copper mines of Chile are a man’s world. Traditionally, miners have considered women bad luck for operations. But Isabel Galleguillos paid no attention to that. She dared to become the first woman to own a mine in the country.
Life hasn’t been easy for Galleguillos, who is featured in this episode of Jens Gould’s Bravery Tapes. Her ex-husband physically abused her and she spent years making miserable pay as a farm and restaurant worker.
“It was very enslaving to work how I worked,” she said.
So she decided to start a new life and become a pioneer by opening a mine in the area of Tambillos.
“If I can do it, why not?” she said.
Men didn’t take kindly to working with her at first.
“It was difficult,” Galleguillos said. “They would say, ‘A woman in mining? What?’ Even women would think I was strange.”
But she only responded with her strong work ethic. She worked seven days a week while raising four children as a single mother. Soon she had built a successful mine with male employees.
“My dream is for my children to be alright,” she said. “That’s why I’m fighting. I’ve sacrificed as a woman. I don’t want them to go through what I did.”
Isabel hopes her determination can inspire others as well.
“Don’t let yourself fall. Keep fighting,” she said. “If one thing doesn’t work out, look for something else. But always keep fighting.”
Directed by Jens Erik Gould and Valerie Defert
Produced by Jens Erik Gould and Alex Balassa
Filmed by Sebastian Vuagnat
Edited by Blindspot
Music by Marcelo Ortiz, Jens Erik and Carmen Garza
Thank you to For Your Information TV and Blindspot Pictures
JENS ERIK GOULD
Jens has more than a decade of experience covering multiple beats in more than a dozen countries across the globe, including covering Venezuela politics for The New York Times and Mexico’s economy for Bloomberg News. He covered music for TIME Magazine and time.com, interviewing artists from Skrillex to Danger Mouse. He is also a singer songwriter who has released three albums.