Ninoska tells the story of how her mother went aboard a ship to join her boyfriend in Puerto Rico, but when she arrived in Valparaiso on the continent, she was met with the news that he had died in Vietnam. She stayed in Valparaiso, learned to speak Spanish and, in time, married the pilot of the “Navarino” and had her family. “I was born in Quilpué in 1969. My father was sailing 6 to 8 months out of the year, so my mother became the matriarch who raised us her way. I remember that in Quilpué, in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, she would open her house to anyone who needed shelter, such as Papa Kiko, Rubén Hito, Mama Lara and many more. I grew up in a very close-knit Rapanui family. We only went to the Island during the school winter break.
“Unfortunately, she made a major error. Due to her bad experiences when she was studying Spanish, when she was badly bullied for being an Islander, she forced all three of us to firstly speak and write perfect Spanish and wouldn’t speak to us in Rapanui. We only learned a few words and phrases when family and friends would come from the Island. Today I understand the Rapanui language, but I don’t dare speak it. I’ve also been put down by my relatives who laugh at my attempts. The important thing is that I am and I feel Rapanui.”
“I studied several majors, always thinking that I could apply them on the Island. The first was Differential Education at the Catholic University of Valparaiso. Than I chose Business Administration because I was enthusiastic about starting a factory to make guava jam with my aunt, Graciela Hucke, who was an assistant to Uka Tepano, whose husband, Gerardo Velasco, had converted a shed in Hanga Pico for the project. I went on vacation to the Island in 1989, but I ended up staying for six months because I had fallen in love. I finally went back to the continent and finished my studies but, instead of going to work, I registered to study Law, but I didn’t continue because at that time all the work done through written cases, really boring. Only recently, many years later, have there been some reforms which now allow for oral cases.
“After working for a year, I returned to the Island in 1997 and got excited by the project of the then-Mayor, Petero Edmunds, and decided to stay. I worked with City Hall for 6 years in Control. Then I was hired as the administrator of the District Attorney’s office. I recall that when the procedural reforms began we only had around 25 cases of violence and rape, almost nothing, but when the women got more confident with us, the accusations increased considerably. It was surprising that child abuse, women’s abuse and theft were the most reported crimes. I realized again that the prosecutor’s office was not my place, since I was always dealing with past actions and I really wanted to work in prevention and education. From that time, I have participated in all the programs for protection of children’s rights through the Haka Pupa program, and have been able to combine both aspects.
“I am convinced that, today, any program of prevention and assistance must begin in the home and with an adequate cultural background. Unfortunately, the programs in Chile are not adapted to the idiosyncrasy of the Island. Between 2004 and 2010, institutions could enrol in a program called FAS, Simplified Family Assistance, which was developed by SENAME and considered that, for example, if a child had no father and the mother was alcoholic, the grandmother could take charge. She would receive all the assistance, including psychological help, and all the resources so that the child would lack for nothing. This program didn’t work well in continental Chile but it was the only one that fit in with our cultural reality. Unfortunately, with the change of government, the new Director of SENAME eliminated it, in spite of our requests to maintain it.”
“In 1988, the then-Governor, Carolina Hotus, decided to change the directors of the public institutions on the Island and called for applications to assume as director of the National Forestry Institute, CONAF, which managed the basis of our tourism, which is the Rapa Nui National Park. I talked it over with my family and with my partner,
Gustavo Edmunds-Paoa, and applied. I began in this position in 2009. In all these years, we’ve managed to maintain a good, cooperative working team. We are all Rapanui, we all know each other well and we’ve learned a lot through all these years of experience.”
“We’ve also cooperated with the local tour operators who told us that we needed to improve infrastructure and services in the Park. As we all knew, CONAF didn’t have the funds and the government wasn’t going to put up any more money, so it was proposed to raise the cost of the Park entry fee to generate the funds that would belong to the Island and would let us pay for the improvements. In March of 2010, the new fee that we still have today was put in place. That first year, we didn’t get much coming in, because it was the year of the earthquake (on the continent). But finally, the next year, we were able to add some 400 million pesos (approximately US$ 700,000). However, under Chilean law, there is no consideration for re-investment of earnings in government institutions; excess funds have to return to Santiago and be redistributed among all the Parks in the country. Due to the efforts of the Commission for Development (CODEIPA) and the Tourism Development Council, we were able to negotiate an exception with the central office of CONAF that allowed the excess funds from the Park entry fee to stay on the Island.
“With the earnings from 2012 through 2014, we were able to do improvements at Anakena, Te Pito Kura, La Perousse, Rano Raraku and Hanga O’Teo. Unfortunately, in 2015, there were no excess funds, due to the take-over of the Park by a radicalized group of Rapanui. To get them to end the take-over, the Chilean government proposed the co-administration of the Park with a native community representing the 36 existing Rapanui families. Following a plebiscite among the native families last August and the election of a co-administrative community, Ma’u Henua, the agreement was signed. “We have to recognize that this was an historic act. For me, the best part of this process has been the revitalization of the Rapanui families, who were previously dormant, leaving all the decisions in the hands of the authorities. Now we see greater unity and commitment with the development of the Island as a whole, although there is still a lack of maturity and leadership. Nonetheless, from this process, new natural leaders will arise to continue taking charge of the Island effectively and emotionally.”