Manuel Tuki

At almost one hundred years of age, the sculptor Manuel A. Tuki is a shining example for the young people of today. He lives on his farm and, since he retired, he hasn’t stopped carving in stone and wood. Major works with his signature are to be found in places like Spain, Italy, Japan, and, of course, Chile. Some are installed on the Alameda Avenue in Santiago, at Caleta Portales in Valparaiso and at the airport on Easter Island. Now he tells his version of Island history.

Anuncio Destacado

“I am of mixed blood. My father was Manuel Ernesto Perez-Acevedo, a Chilean lawyer who came to work on the Island. He was killed when I had just turned two and was buried in the old cemetery, between what is now the post office and the municipal gym. You can’t even see the tombs in the grass any more, just a cross. When I was young, my mother used to take me to visit an elderly lady who was tattooed all over her body. She was Queen Eva. She told me that my daddy had helped her and had asked her to watch over me. She also told me that the government would take care of me. And, if you look at it, that’s what happened. I worked for 15 years in the Navy, 25 years at the Banco del Estado (Chilean government bank) and now I live off of my pension.

“I was with my mother, Micaela Tuki-Kaituoe, until I was 7. We lived at the Vaitea ranch where she cooked for the workers of Williamson & Balfour, the sheep ranch which leased the Island between 1905 and 1952. One day the administrator came and told my mother that children couldn’t be around the sheep because we chased them and would make them run away. So she took me to live with the family of Petero Riroroko. I also spent some time with my grandmother, Emilia Kaituoe, and my aunt “Rosevia” (Rosalia). My grandmother said that leprosy had come to the Island from Tahiti, brought by a relative of ours, Taverio Tuki, who had worked for the Bishop of Tahiti making furniture. One day, he told the Bishop that he wanted to return to the Island, but the Bishop told him that he could go only once he finished the Bishop’s coffin and buried him. Since our relative didn’t accept those terms and left on his own, the Bishop set a curse on him where he got sick with leprosy.

“In later years, I married Magdalena Paté-Araki and we had 12 children. During the years of the Williamson & Balfour Company (until 1952), life was good. There was enough food and the things that we didn’t produce, like some groceries, cloth and medicine, would come on the company ship once a year to supply us. The ship would then go back loaded with wool from the sheep and lard from the pigs. The company offered to have us plant corn which they would buy to feed the pigs and they gave us sacks and tools. There was a purchasing power that doesn’t exist today. In the past, the Rapanui were good workers and good neighbors. We were very united and shared everything. We did everything by barter. We were a patriarchal society in which the men gave the orders and the women and children obeyed. The women were always in their homes and the children helped on the farm and with daily chores. There was respect and order. Unfortunately, since alcohol showed up on the Island, things began to change. Now a lot of people have become lazy and some men even get vicious and beat their women and children.

“Alongside the Riroroko family, on Westermeyer’s farm, lived old Renga Maengo with his white skin and freckles on his face. He planted sweet potato, taro and sugar cane. I think that some of our ancestors were white like old Renga Moango and that the roots of the Rapanui are the ancient New Zealanders and not the Maori who came later. According to folklore from New Zealand, the oldest inhabitants there were of the white race and with straight hair. That was backed up by Dr. Stephen Chauvet, who studied the hair of the Easter Islanders as well as those of the principal islands of Oceania. His work confirmed that the Easter Islanders’ hair is most closely related to that of the New Zealanders and not to other islanders of Polynesia.

“The grandfather of Petero Riroroko and Rodrigo Paoa was Carlos Recabarren, the Civil Registry officer and Maritime Sub-delegate, who in 1926 made a list of the properties that were occupied and fenced by the Islanders and he gave each one a “Provisional Deed”. Everyone was happy. When he returned to the continent, he named Carlos Millán-Iriarte as interim Maritime Sub-delegate and named the Islander, Juan Araki, as governor.
“Major Carlos Millán-Iriarte was one of the first group of political exiles from the government of Carlos Ibañez del Campo, accused of conspiracy. He arrived with the naval Captain Cumplido, in a group that included Marmaduque Grove, Enrique Bravo, Carlos Charlín-Ojeda (the grandfather of our mayor), Eugenio and Arturo Matte, Eduardo Alessandri and Carlos Vicuña-Fuentes. Carlos Millán helped with building the road to Pia Taro and the pier at Hanga Roa. He also taught reading and writing in the little school that they built, which they called Hare Mekerá and was located where the Hotel Otai is today. The first exiles took off in the sloop “Valencia” to Tahiti. Two years later, they were exiled again and, this time, they arrived with the first policemen who set up on the site where Sergio Rapu now has his business in front of the local market. They also brought some carpenters who began to build in the plots which are in front of the present-day Provincial Government. And if we are talking about those properties which were taken over a few years ago, that land never belonged to Tuco Tuki nor to Margarita Pakarati either, as they say. It’s pure greed on their parts.

Anuncio Destacado

“In 1932, when I was twelve years old, the Navy took over the Maritime Government and ended the exile of political dissidents from the continent. In 1953, Williamson & Balfour left Rapa Nui and the Navy took charge of the entire Island. The Navy wasn’t a very good administrator of the Vaitea ranch. That wasn’t their specialty. But the people kept on working as they always had and didn’t cause problems and had a good time. I know the Navy well ever since they arrived on the Island. I worked for them for 15 years until they fired all of us in 1959. They left the Island three years later and I went to the continent, too, to get them to recognize my years of service.”
Two years later, under the government of Eduardo Frei-Montalva, the Islanders, led by the school teacher, Alfonso Rapu, reclaimed their constitutional rights and demanded development as on the continent. That is, they no longer wanted to be under the jurisdiction and administration of the Navy. In 1966, the Island was politically integrated into the Region of Valparaiso and civil public services were installed. The government hired 12 Islanders who were living on the continent and who spoke good Spanish to facilitate communication with the locals. “I was called to join the Banco del Estado,” comments Manuel. In addition, a few years later, Manuel Tuki, with his nephew Fernando Pate, was the first to replant the delicious pineapples that the Island used to produce. Years previously, Orlando Paoa was the largest producer on the Island, but he went to the continent and nobody else took on that task.

“I’m happy with Chile. All the aid and development that Chile has given to the Island since that time should make us overlook the difficulties of the past. Unfortunately, there are people who, although they never lived through the difficult times, try to rile up the others and don’t do a day’s work for anybody. A few of the young people have taken to studying and return as professionals, but others are accustomed to being given everything and aren’t willing to work as we did in the past. The land is abandoned and the Island is no longer able to feed itself with its agriculture. We can produce coffee and many other things, but – no – it’s easier to bring everything from the continent. What would happen if, for some reason, the ships and airplanes don’t arrive any more? The local authorities don’t know how to manage the Island; they don’t know how to make decisions. Politics don’t serve the Island well. Our goal should be the development of Rapa Nui. I’m a hard-working man and, if I was only 50 years old, I’d pull up my pants and get to work and make real changes on the Island.”

Anuncios Destacados

Featured Reports:

Bees Rapa Nui

Bees Rapa Nui

Bees Rapa NuiFree of Pathogens, a Source of Life and LoveBees were introduced to Easter Island by the Catholic missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the decade of the 1860s, and since then have been pollinating guavas, mangoes, bananas and pasture flowers. In...