Emilia was part of the group of the first 12 Rapanui students who left to study on the continent in 1955. Today she is remembered as the best director that the school Liceo Lorenzo Baeza Vega has ever had for the discipline that she was able to impose.
Iwas born in 1941. My mother is María Ángela Cardinali-Pakomio and my father Alberto Paoa-Bornier, a grandson of Dutrou-Bornier. They had seven children of which I am the fourth. Life in the old days was very hard, but the lovely part was the uniry of the family and that all the people cared about each other and respected each other. Nobody drank alcohol, although at parties there was a drink made of fermented corn. The children were expected to work, going to get water or herding the animals or looking for animal droppings for fuel or watching the fire until the next day, because we didn’t have matches. By the time I was seven, I knew how to milk cows and make cheese and butter to sell. We had a lot of pigs. We had to go all the way to the “Seven Moai” to get the grass called “kai ore” to feed them, even if it was raining and the wind was blowing. I never had dolls so I played with the piglets. Once a sow chased after me and I had to run up a Miro Tahiti tree, but I fell and speared my leg with a branch. Since there was no hospital, I was treated at home with mutton fat. My other sisters were tranquil, while I was always called the wild one. My sister Victoria had to make the beds which had sheets made of flour sacks and to clean the floor. Everything was always spotless.
We went to the nuns’ school. The school was lovely, full of flowers and very few students. The teachers only spoke Spanish and we didn’t understand anything. We started classes at 9 sharp; we calculated the time by the position of the sun during the day. I remember that we had to bring a switch that could be used to punish us when we didn’t read or didn’t know the answer. To avoid being switched, I would bring something from home, like cheese or things like that, for María Pont-Hill so that she would explain things to me and help me learn it all by memory. Every day I also brought milk for the nuns. One day, while I was walking with my pail, I heard canons firing from the ship “Pinto” which came in 1955. I thought that they were killing everyone and threw away the milk to go hide in a cave. We were terrified of the “continentals”. When we saw a sailor, we would hide. Later they offered my mother the opportunity to send one of her children to study on the continent. Since my sisters were already married and my brother Alberto didn’t like to study, she chose me. 12 of us children left in January of 1955. We were among the first to leave the Island with permission, because, in those days, they said we were all lepers. Also going were Benito Rapahango, Arsenio Rapu, Lucas Pakarati, Juan Laharoa, Domingo Araki, Lucía Tuki, Irma Atan, Irene Pakomio, María Pont, Marcelo Pont, another one whom I can’t remember and myself. We arrived at the port of Valparaiso, amazed, yelling and talking our language. A gentleman named Guillermo Haskin received us and took us to his house. Benito then went to the Naval Academy, while Juan Laharoa and Arsenio Rapu went to Aviation. We didn’t hear from our families in the 6 years that we were there. We were all sent to different schools which had boarding houses, like the Teachers’ College or the Technical Nbr. 1, which is where I was sent. On the weekends the boarding house was closed and since I didn’t have anywhere to go, the other students would take turns, saying “Who gets the “Pascuense”?” After a while, they didn’t take us any more, so with Irma we would go to a shelter for the street children on some weekends and during the winter break. I would say to those kids, “You be careful about doing anything to us, because I’ll beat you up.” It was humiliating, but I thought : “My mama wants me to be here, so I’ll put up with everything. I’m not going back to the Island without something in hand”. The teasing from my classmates was awful! They called me “Pascuense Indian” or “Pascuense leper”. They made fun of us a lot, but we got used to it. It’s not nice to say, but the Navy behaved really badly with the people of the Island. For them, we were just Indians. I was able to finish my studies in clothing without ever failing a class because the only thing that I wanted was to return to the Island and teach. But when I did, the nuns wouldn’t give me any classes. Here I met and fell in love with my husband, who was in the Air Force, so I went back to the continent to marry him in 1963. I taught for 7 years in a school in Valparaiso and had my three children, but I needed to return to the Island because the nuns continued to give me problems about teaching. Jacobo Hey suggested that I study Primary Education, so I went back to the continent, without my children, and studied at the Catholic University. Back on the Island and with my education credentials, I was finally allowed to teach. In 1985, the Minister of Education Gaete told me that I should take charge of the school. I received a lot of help from many people to straighten out the place and clean up the mess that was there and, bit by bit, we were able to fix the classrooms. I programmed classes, brought in the teachers and, at the beginning of the school year, I told everyone that we had to work hard for the children and break the bad habits that they had acquired. It was pretty hard. One boy, who was called Tera´i would arrive on his horse and would sit with his horse’s head in the class window! One teacher said to me “No, I’m not going to make bad blood for these things. I work for my paycheck”. I answered him : “You’re of no use to me. I need teachers with vocation.” I would roam the classrooms and the yards, controlling and talking to the students, because it’s necessary to get through to even the most disorderly child. I searched for ways to give them treats with a good breakfast or making a garden. When they saw me coming, there would be a silence and absolute order. I prohibited that the teachers smoke in the school. We finally hit a point where things were running well. But with the change of government, the new Minister of Education came to the Island and met with the teachers. Some complained that I had turned the school into a regiment. I gave the school discipline, which is very different! The mayor, Juan Edmunds, asked me to resign because of the teachers’ complaints, but I told him : I’m very sorry, but I’m not going to resign. I work for the children!” So I was fired, just like that. Only now, after 20 years, I’m getting a small pension.
Today Emilia’s students are grateful for the education that they received and understand why she was always scolding and challenging them. She says that she is proud of what her students have become and concludes “Without discipline, it’s only half an education.”