Carmen Cardinal

he current Governor of Isla de Pascua is the granddaughter of Rafael Cardinali, an Italian who arrived to the Island during the First World War looking for opportunities and founded the Cardinali clan, a name that is today considered Rapanui. Carmen Cardinali, school teacher and businesswoman in tourism, has struggled since 1966 to save and propagate the Rapanui language, later founding the Academy of the Rapanui Language, an institution which continues to this day. She relates some of the events of her first year as Governor.

“It has been a difficult year. I took over in a moment of many emblematic complications. As Governor, as the representative of the Government of Chile, I had to ask the community to believe in me, basically because, for the first time, there was an open willingness on the part of the President to resolve the problems of land ownership, something that never existed in previous governments. Today I am grateful for the confidence and patience that the people have had with my administration. We can’t forget that this is a very demanding community, in the sense that when they ask for something today, they want it delivered, at most, tomorrow.

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I am Rapanui and my principal concern is to work for the Rapanui community, but always within legal norms and with respect for the established laws in the Chilean constitution. I can’t choose to ignore that the annexation treaty, called the “Agreement of Will” (1888), was signed between the king Atamu Tekena and the Chilean representant Policarpo Toro. The things that happened over the history of a country must be analyzed through the point of view of their times. Atamu Tekena agreed to the annexation by Chile because he saw the need for protection for the Island and its people after what had happened with the earlier slave raids. The Island belonged to no country, so of course it was independent, but it had almost no population and lacked economic and military resources which would enable it to develop and protect itself from foreign invasions. Well, today it doesn’t either, so it is irrational to talk about independence as some like to.

Without a doubt, our history under the Chilean flag is full of cases of abuse and unfulfilled promises that were made in 1888. We all remember them and no one can deny them. That was why, in 1964, the school teacher Alfonso Rapu, who is my husband, together with other Rapanui, rebelled and demanded that the Chilean president at that time, Eduardo Frei-Montalva, democratize the Island and respect the civil rights of the Rapanui, changing the military Island administration for civil government.

In 1966 we were able to modernize education and development for our Island. Today we can be proud that we have over one hundred professional people, businessmen in tourism, agriculture and fishing, in Rapanui arts and crafts. In public services, we have over 400 employees of Rapanui ethnicity. In these 45 years, we have grown as a people. Today, just as happened to Atamu Tekena in his time and Alfonso Rapu in his, we have another great need: the Rapanui want greater space for autonomy, with the right to participate in decisions which affect the Island. We need to control immigration and resolve pending issues of land ownership. This is the desire of the people as expressed in the land grabs of last year.

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The current Government of Chile is, for the first time, listening to us. As a result, they created the Working Committees with the objective of finding solutions for the real needs of the community. In each committee, there is a councilman and a commissioner from CODEIPA (an organism for the study and analysis of development projects and for background information on ancestral land holdings), both representatives elected by the people, and a representative of the government. Different community groups have also been invited to participate – the Chamber of Tourism, the farmers’ group, the “Parliament”, the “Makenu” group, fishermen, craftsmen and folklorists. Nobody can say that they didn’t have an opportunity to give their opinion.

Unfortunately, the lack of information, of understanding, of responsibility and of constancy in some agreements and some of the opinions expressed have made communication difficult and, as a result, have delayed solutions. The same lack of results is influenced by a lack of civic respect and the belief held by some that “Rapa Nui is MY island and I’ll do what I want; I don’t need Chilean laws.” Without education, without respect and without legality, there is no development, just chaos and strife, as our ancestors have shown us in certain periods of our history.

This year we have made some important achievements which I was able to enumerate in my Public Report last month. There is still a lot to be done. I’m 100% committed to fulfilling the commitments acquired by this Government in returning lands, implementing migratory control, which is ad portas, and establishing a formal island government with greater autonomy for the Rapanui people, all before 2014. Iorana Korua.”

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