Ana Rapahango, 80 years old, is the granddaughter of Antonia Tepuku and the daughter of Victoria Rapahango and the Englishman, Henry Percival Edmunds, who was the resident administrator of the Island for the Williamson &  Balfour Company from 1906 to 1930. 

My father left, leaving my mother alone with his four children, Jorge, Alicia, Juan and me, who was still on the way.   Before he left, he built a house for us, completely furnished and set apart from the Company land, and left some money with the Company to give my mother an annual income for a good while.  She had lived with my father for 10 years and adapted pretty well to an English way of living.  She was strict and kept us all very upright.  Fulfilling my father’s wishes, when I was 10, I and my sister Alicia went to live in Mataveri with the family of the administrator, Colin Morrison, my father’s successor.  I appreciate the English education that I received, like how they treated me, how I was taught to cook and clean and set the table and make the beds.  I remember that I was told : “If you take things from here to there, you miust bring them back when you return”  I learned to be frugal and to calculate everything.  I lived well and never lacked for anything.  On the weekends, they took me to the countryside or we would go out in boats around the Island.  I lived happily until I was 18 and then had another life.”

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Ana Rapahango was sent at 18 years of age to Valparaíso to learn midwifing in the hospital of Viña del Mar, where the director was Dr. Gustavo Fricke:

In those days, it wasn’t as it is now.  It was much easier.  They taught you everything and then let you practice.  I was in all the sections of the hospital, even the morgue.  That was the most interesting part.  We were 20 women in the Red Cross course and nobody wanted to go in there from pure fear.  So I just went in and the doctor gave me a big knife and told me to cut strongly on the cadaver which was on the table.  I did it and saw all the insides of the dead woman, which is something that I have never forgotten.  After a year I had an exam because they needed me urgently on Easter Island.  I was almost 20 years old.  I began to work in the hospital where I met the head Naval nurse, Rafael Haoa.  Without a very good idea of what marriage was, I got married.  My mother let me chose, altough the custom then was that the parents would select the husband for their daughters.

Rafael explained to me that on the Island the women had their babies in the home.  In my childhood, I hardly ever went into the town, but later I knew it better than anyone and could see how the people lived.  For me it was another world.  In those days there were maybe 500 or 600 people and they lived fairly far apart.  To get to some, you had to cross fields and jump stone fences.  There used to be midwives and a man who would help the women in childbirth.  I knew one who was gay.  Everyone wanted him to attend to them because he had such an easy manner with the women.  A woman would sit on a man’s knees or would crouch down and the man would hold her from the back while holding a clean cloth against the part between the vagina and the anus so that it wouldn’t split during the birth.  Another person would receive the baby.  At first no one wanted me to attend to them because they didn’t know me.  I was helped by one of the old midwives, Hilaria Pakomio.  She learned from me and I learned from her.  We would go together in the night to the houses of the women in childbirth so that they would let me attend to them.

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When a Chilean ship would arrive, everyone would get sick.  My husband and an assistant paramedic would go to see the sick and give them injections in all the houses on the Island.  I would stay alone in the hospital, taking care of everything there.  Later on, a doctor who was an expert in leprosy came and taught me to do the laboratory work.  I would take a sample of nasal secretion, note all the patient data, look through the microscope for the Hansen’s Bacillus and deliver the results to the doctor.  He would study the results, examine the sick and decide.  Rafael and Alberto Hotus took care of bandaging and worked under the instructions of the doctor.  In the 60s, doctors began arriving from the “conti”  who would decide that any spots were leprosy.  Thank goodness that I did the examinations and could save many people from a bad diagnosis.

 

I never knew my father, so after I got married I chose to use my mother’s family name, since she raised me.  I changed my name at the civil registry office and put myself down as Antonia Rapahango. My father, who was then living in Tahiti where he had started a third family with a Tahitian woman, wrote to me and scolded me.  I know that I am half English, but I feel Easter Islander.

 

            Percy Edmunds died in 1957 in Tahiti, nearly 80 years old, and Victoria Rapahango on Easter Island in 1979, nearly half a century after Ana’s father had left.  Ana was widowed and lives with her family on Rapa Nui.

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