Alberto Hotus Chavez

Alberto Hotus, 82, is Chairman of the Rapa Nui Council of Elders. This was created in 1980 with the aim of recovering the investiture of Rapanui chiefs and rejecting the delivery of individual titles of land ownership, a situation that was opposed to the ancestral custom of a community land. “The State was not respecting our culture as was its duty according to the Will Agreement signed with Chile in 1888. Our land is Kainga (sex of the mother) and Henua (the placenta that nourishes), the land is not sold, it belongs to the whole community. ”

“My dad -Matías 2 ° Hotus Ika- was a person who liked to learn the history of the island. I used to lock myself in the corral to know how the animals spoke. He died when I was 4 years old and my paternal grandfather kicked my mother out of the house with three of his children, only my brother Germán stayed with him for being the eldest. We arrived at the home of Heremeta Make and Vicente Pont, a Frenchman who had already resided at Easter since 1886 and who had raised my mother. In that I saw that my mother had Agustín Teao Riroroko as her husband, who didn’t work for anyone. He rarely carved, but at last no one could stand my stepfather and we went from house to house as close friends. Sometimes I slept next to a pirca or in a cave; We were cold and hungry. I always watched the other children who had a house and dad. Finally we ended up where Victoria Rapahango, who was very good and charitable. She and my aunt Ana Chavez Manuheuroroa loved me very much. I am Catholic and I always pray for them.

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At that time there were lepers on the island that they shared with their families, they went to mass together on Sunday. Only the chronically ill went to the lazaret. Actually we were all technically lepers and that left me marked. At age 15 (1943) I volunteered to work as an assistant in the hospital and in the home of practitioner Marcos Figueroa Retamales. I wanted to be a nurse and learn Spanish. In 1948, when the ship Allipén, Pedro Teao, I, Luis Paoa Paté, Ventura Chavez Hito, Florentino Hey Riroroko and Valentín Riroroko arrived, we boarded the ship to escape to Valparaíso. Dockers, laughing, recommended us to hide in a cellar. I realized that it was a trap and we went to winery No. 2. There we found that the bilge table was open and we got in. It was a meter and a half deep. The ship carried bales of cowhide, we opened two and made a bed in the bilge to lower the water level. We had water to the nose and the plank over the head. At night we went out to breathe. My friend Luis Figueroa Retamales also traveled and brought us bread and other things. After looking for us everywhere, we felt the ship’s engines and how it carried animals could not return. Soon we went on deck and lay on the bales of wool. There we found Miguel Paoa who had also sneaked in and since he was eleven, everyone believed he was the son of a passenger. The pilot was holding his head. I couldn’t believe we were in the bilge.
On the ship were Federico Felbermayer and Mayor Humberto Molina Luco, treasurer and president respectively of the Society of Friends of Rapa Nui in Valparaíso. They paid us the tickets. Upon arrival we were stopped at a police station to verify if we carried leprosy. The news had reached Valparaíso that there were seven “turkeys” from Passover and several journalists were waiting for us asking why. I was the only one in the group that spoke Spanish and I replied that I had read that there are no slaves in Chile, but that the Passovers – being Chilean since 1888 – were slaves. Federico Felbermeyer was general manager of the Cia de Tabacos and offered to study engineering to work in his company, but I wanted to be a nurse. He sponsored me to be accepted at the Naval Hospital Nursing School. For two years he offered me all kinds of work on the days when everyone went out of business, simply because I had nowhere to go. It helped me to learn.

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En 1952 me embarqué en el Pinto y volví a la isla como enfermero naval . Fui nombrado Jefe y encargado del Lazareto. Ahí conocí a varios Korohua como Arturo Teao (+1947) y Gabriel Hereveri (+1965), quienes contaban las historias de la isla al Padre Sebastián Englert, tal como se las relató el anciano Pu´ Ara Hoa antes de morir en 1915. Muchos de los ancianos que estuvieron en el leprosario habían visitado la casa de la señora Vero Tangata, la madre del niño Tepano que llegó enfermo desde Tahiti en el Angamos en 1888 y se contagiaron. Primero trabajé con la Dra von Humber. Ella trajo el Avlosulfon que era muy tóxico y la gente se ponía amarilla, entonces lo reemplazó por el Conteben en tabletas que era mejor. Después vino la Dra Hilka von Belling, una lepróloga, que trajo los últimos tratamientos y nos enseñó hacer los exámenes para detectar si había bacilo de Hansen. Algunos no tenían bacilo, solo manchas, por eso había que investigar tenían sensibilidad o no. El “pinche” y “toc” lo aplicó el Dr Meneses, el que no tenía sensibilidad en la piel con la mancha estaba con lepra. Los médicos decidían a quién se debía aislar. Cómo el período de incubación era muy largo, hasta 20 a 25 años, ello nos obligaba hacer exámenes periódicos a toda la población. En poco más de dos años tratamos a todos los leprosos y detuvimos la enfermedad. Tenemos que agradecer a la Armada y al Estado de Chile, sin ellos, hoy seríamos todos leprosos.

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