Impoverished in his Bolivian homeland, he emigrated to Chile to find work and started at the mine in the barren Atacama Desert just five days before disaster struck.
Carlos Mamani Soliz emerged from the deep yesterday to an offer from Bolivian President Evo Morales to return home -- where a guaranteed job and a house awaited him.
The 24-year-old had a visit from Mr Morales after he was airlifted to the local hospital in Copiapo just hours after he became the fourth man to be raised in the Phoenix capsule.
"It is wonderful to breathe fresh air and see the stars," the miner told Mr Morales, who missed the moment of his rescue after a delayed flight.
The eighth of 11 children, Mr Mamani was born into a family that eked out a living cultivating potatoes and herding sheep and cattle. He moved to Chile four years ago in search of work and moved from mine to mine before getting a job at the San Jose gold and copper mine.
Despite the offer to return to Bolivia with his family, which Mr Morales said was effective immediately, and he would even fly him home in his presidential plane, the miner made it clear he wanted to stay in Chile, at least for a few days.
He said he planned to meet up with the 32 other miners on the surface once they had recovered from their ordeal.
He emerged at 3.09am to the sight of Chile's President Sebastian Pinera and the first lady waving Bolivian flags. He gave his wife Veronica such a strong embrace that her hard hat was knocked to the floor. The couple have a one-year-old daughter.
In a moment that won cheers from across the camp, Mr Mamani gestured to the Chilean flag on his T-shirt and shouted "Gracias, Chile!" when he stepped out of the capsule.
He had already secured a place in Chilean hearts after he joined his fellow miners in singing Chile's national anthem on their independence day.