“Life was not like it is today. It used to be very precarious and difficult. Children and adults had to work just to eat, but we were survivors. From the time that I was little, I had to help on the farm to plow, sow and harvest. Sometimes I was able to run away to surf, but that was my only entertainment. I only went to school until third grade. In spite of the fact that I didn’t want to, my father took me out of school when the boat accident of the school children happened at Anakena. He preferred to take me to work with him. In 1953, the Chilean government rescinded the lease of the sheep company Williamson &Balfour and the Navy took over the administration of the Island. From that time on, some of the children could go to the continent to study. They were given this preference because their fathers were overseers. In spite of it all, I have to recognize that, thanks to the hard life that we had, I learned responsibility and respect from my parents. Unfortunately, today the families don’t work like that here on the Island. The parents don’t have time to teach their children. Now the young people run around alone and have access to alcohol and drugs.
Finally, I was hired for the construction of the Hotel Hanga Roa of the National Hotels (HONSA), which was a division of the governmental Corporation for Development and Production (CORFO). The CORFO made a deal with the owners of the property, the Hitorangi family: the land in exchange for building them a solid house of 60 square meters (645 square feet). In 1981, the HONSA sold the hotel to its Chilean administrator, Hugo Salas-Román. That happened two years after the military government published Law Nbr. 2885 which prohibited the sale of land to people not of the ethnic group or who were not classified in some situation that the legislation could permit. To my way of thinking, that was a grave error on the part of the Chilean government. Now we have the Hitorangi family placing black flags on the shore in front of the hotel, since they consider that the original exchange was just a concession.
With my work in the hotel, I made money again and built a discotheque called Toroko, where in late 1973, we formed a musical group, Taina Vaikava. I was doing well. I was one of the first Rapanui to have a vehicle and also got a plot of land on the main street, Hotu Matu’a, and set up a restaurant which I called Iorana. Shortly thereafter, I built the hotel with the same name, which we inaugurated in 1985.
Since the rebellion of the school teacher Alfonso Rapu in 1964, I got interested in Island politics. Alfonso, after returning from his studies on the continent, wrote a letter to the Chilean President, Eduardo Frei-Montalva, in the name of the Island community, requesting that the Islanders receive the same civil rights as the inhabitants of the continent. Thanks to him, this was achieved and the government began to fulfill the Agreement of Wills that was supposed to give us protection, health care, education and economic development.
In the present day, there has been enormous development, but there has also been great damage. From 1968, this development sowed up from one day to the next and we all jumped in. In those days, the koros (the adults) were content, but nobody took into account the consequences for the Rapanui traditions. Bit by bit, we’ve been losing the language, the customs and the traditions. It’s been a gradual process due to the mixed marriages since the arrival of a large number of Chilean government workers, of construction workers who stay one or two years until their work is done and of numerous visitors who have stayed to live on the Island.
Valeria Hey, Matias wife, adds the comment that the money that was being disputed had already been returned, with a receipt signed, to Petero Chavez, who then distributed it among the Islanders responsible for taking over the Park.
Manuel TukiAt 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...
María Angata......... y la Rebelión de & the Rebellion of 1914Maria Angata Veri Tahi, daughter of Hare Kohou (of the Miru tribe) and Veri Tahi a Kau (of the Haumoana tribe) was born in 1854. During her childhood, when she was barely 8 years old, she witnessed the...
Niso Tuki TepanoIn the past, it was a custom to raise children from another family, for various reasons: not being able to have one's own children, not being able to raise one's own child or simply because a family wanted to have more children, as was the case for...