What began as a life-threatening ordeal ended in life-altering consequences for one man. In early August, 33 miners headed below the Atacama Desert in Chile, not knowing that, due to a rock collapse, they wouldn’t see the light again for nearly 70 days. After being freed from their long ordeal, many of the men greeted their wives, who kept constant vigils, and kissed their children. The day he was freed, Yonni Barrios embraced his girlfriend and gave her a passionate kiss. The one person who was not there to see his rescue was his wife, Martina Salinas. It is known now that during one of her long vigils, she met Yonni’s mistress, whose existence was unknown to her. A triumphant tale of hardship is now a headline-grabbing tale of unfaithfulness.
This is not the first time in history that a tragic event has brought to light infidelity, nor will it be the last. Several once-private couples have been thrust into the limelight when a seemingly unrelated hardship revealed lovers.
Tammy Faye Messner helped ex-husband Jim Bakker build an evangelist empire worth millions, and shared a 30-year marriage with him that produced a powerful cable access show called PTL (Praise The Lord) that drew millions weekly. Then, in the early 1980s, people started to question the amount of viewer donations being spent on private luxuries. They were burning through money at an outlandish rate, and frantically begging viewers for donations to PTL.
And then, in 1987, their immensely powerful empire crumbled. What started out as a simple inquiry led the FBI to extensively study their spending of PTL donation funds. Amid their anguish and turmoil, a horrible secret was revealed. The inquiry into their finances revealed a onetime payment of a quarter of a million dollars to Jessica Hahn, Jim’s former secretary, to keep her quit about a 1980 affair with the married minister.
Another infamous case of tragedy thrusting an affair into the spotlight was a Magic Johnson press conference. On Nov. 7, 1991, Johnson, basketball royalty, held a press conference to tell the world he had AIDS. What started as a required routine physical ended in the revelation that he had a life-threatening (and at the time widely ignored) disease. With this devastating news came another horrible truth. When he sat down to tell his wife about his health, he also had to tell her that he had been carrying on numerous affairs for the past several years with dozens of woman, one of whom had given him AIDS.
Perhaps the most devastating revelation of an affair came with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. When James Earl Ray fired the shot that killed King, he also unknowingly revealed the civil rights leader as a notorious womanizer. After his death, Ray’s defense lawyers implied that King was involved in communist dealings, and began frantically trying to tear down his moral character, which led to the uncovering of numerous affairs. Had King lived a normal life and died of natural causes, it may never have come out at all that he was unfaithful.
While generally celebrities involved in extramarital affairs are thought unkindly of by the public, we as a society are usually quick to forgive and explain away cheating as “only human.” The affair of a miner in Chile will likely be no exception. He will be forgiven for the fact that he lived when by every right he should have died, and people will remember the rescue, not the affair that followed.