The Strauch triumvirate
The Strauch Triumvirate
The book ALIVE by Piers Paul Read is the most truthful document about the Andes odyssey. Read completed the book in 1973, only one year after the accident, and based it on the testimonies - still very recent - given by the 16 survivors.
The author focused on the role played by what he called "The Strauch Triumvirate" formed by Adolfo (Fito), Eduardo and Daniel, who assumed the group leadership after the death of Marcelo Pérez in the avalanche. Marcelo had been the Old Christians' rugby team captain and had, consequently, been the natural leader of the group.
The following paragraphs from the book ALIVE, chosen at random, clearly reflect the importance of the triumvirate in the "new society" of finding their way out of the Andes:
“The three who were the government of this little community, Eduardo and Fito Strauch and Daniel Fernández, were not as individuals so different from the others. They dominated the group by virtue of the strength they brought to one another”.
“Eduardo Strauch, although nicknamed "the German", was in most ways less German than his two cousins. In appearance he took after his mother, an Urioste, having a smaller frame than Fito. His demeanor was attractive and his manner personable. He was the most urbane of the nineteen, perhaps because he had traveled in Europe, and had the most open mind. In general he was calm, but he was capable of passionate anger”.
“The expeditionaries were not the leaders of the group but a caste apart, separated from the others by their privileges and preoccupations. They might have evolved into an oligarchy had not their powers been checked by the triumvirate of the Strauch cousins. Of all the subgroups of friends and relatives that had existed before the avalanche, theirs was the only one to survive intact”.
“The system which was evolved worked well. As in the Constitution of the United States, there were checks and balances. The Strauch cousins with their auxiliaries limited the power of the expeditionaries, and the expeditionaries limited the power of the Strauches. Both groups respected one another, and both acted with the tacit consent of all nineteen”.
“The closeness of the relationship between Fito Strauch, Eduardo Strauch and Daniel Fernández gave them an immediate advantage over all the others in withstanding not only the physical but also the mental suffering caused by their isolation”.
“Of all the work that had to be done, cutting meat off the bodies of their dead friends was the most difficult and unpleasant, and this was done by Fito, Eduardo and Daniel Fernández...”.
“The meat was strictly rationed, and this again was done by the two Strauches and Daniel Fernández. The basic ration which was given out at midday was a small handful, perhaps half a pound, but it was agreed that those who worked could have more, because they used up energy through their exertions, and that the expeditionaries could have almost as much as they liked...”.
“They would talk together about anything except their homes and their families; but on the evening of December 20, as the two Strauches and Daniel Fernández sat waiting for the cold and the dark, they could not stop themselves from thinking of the Christmases of earlier years that they had all celebrated so beautifully together. The German blood was still strong enough in all three to make the idea of those celebrations going on without them particularly intolerable, and for the first time in many days hot tears began to roll down the cheeks not just of Eduardo and Daniel, but of Fito as well”.
These paragraphs are quoted from the book ALIVE by Piers Paul Read, published in 1974. It has been translated into many languages and has been reprinted many times in the intervening years.