“Matusalem” Masú Hey

Masú Hey’s family name really should be Edmunds. His father, Enrique, is the son of Henry Percival Edmunds, the English administrator for the Williamson & Balfour sheep company between 1903 and 1930, and of Sofía Hey, the mother of the first four of nine children Edmunds had with island women. Masú recalls that Edmunds never wanted children and didn’t recognize them or help them. “I never knew him because he went to Tahiti before I was born. My grandmother Sofia was a tough woman for working and she taught all of us. She was also a midwife. We worked from when we were very small, planting corn and such. I saw that others didn’t have anything like Juan Tepano and Timoteo Haoa did. There was nothing to cover yourself with at night, so we slept together over the Heriki Hare grass. I worked with Juan Riroroko, who was a small businessman; he had horses, cows, plows and tools. He wasn’t a very good boss. We never saw any money. It was just to eat and live.” Masú gets pensive for a moment and confesses, “Even so, we lived happily.”

Anuncio Destacado

“My mother, Amelia Riroroko, is the niece of the last elected king of Rapa Nui, Simeón Riro Kainga, who was murdered by the sheep company when he went by ship to Valparaíso en 1897 to speak to the Chilean president about the bad treatment that the islanders were suffering. Here everyone said he was crazy – “riro” means crazy – and that’s where my mother’s family name comes from.

My father was a foreman and a constructor with the Company. With some others, he built the sanatorium for the lepers. I worked for the Company, too, from the time I was thirteen; first as my father’s assistant and later in the shearing shed. I ended up with calluses all over my hands from the work. One summer they took us all to the hospital to examine us for leprosy. That consisted of pricking us on different parts of the body, so that we would have to respond “pinche” if we felt anything or “toc” if we didn’t feel anything. Lack of feeling was a sign of leprosy. I was pricked on my hand right where I had a callus and, since I didn’t feel anything, they sent me to the hospital. Today I don’t go to the hospital, even to visit. It makes me sad just to see it, because I knew it too well when I was young.

Around 1945, when we were ten or eleven years old, we dressed however we could. We didn’t have pants, just boxer shorts. We wore whatever could be made of gunny sacks or flour sacks. We were very poor. When I was twenty, we used clothing from the sailors who came on the ship once a year and we could trade them our “moai” for clothes. On Mondays, we would all put on Navy uniforms to go to work in Vaitea, where we would change into working clothes. Those who worked for the Company had some advantages; they could go fishing there and their wives were allowed to take fresh water from the windmill at Mataveri and wash clothes in the crater of Rano Kau. The Company had a general store where they sold tea, sugar, clothes, shoes and material by the meter. But the ship arrived just once a year and fairly soon there was nothing left. Later, when the Navy took over the ranch, they also sold construction materials.

Anuncio Destacado

I had a lot of jobs. I was a carpenter’s assistant, like my father, a bricklayer and later a mechanic. When I was 18, with the money that I earned, I built my first house in some land that my mother had on the main street. During the Naval administration, I made a trip to Santiago and then stayed and went to work in various government companies. Later I became an independent contractor and ended up building other houses and shops on my property. Today I live with the rents. “
Masú had two wives and six children. According to him, “in those days there was no heart, there was no love. There were too many problems and we had nothing. The wife was like a friend with whom you worked, fought and died together. Even today each goes his own way. There is no jealousy, just anger. We have other customs. The Islanders aren’t interested in love. The ways of the men are drinking and beating up the wife and the women have to put up with it. In the old days there was no education. I went to school only a little bit. Sometimes I didn’t go because my mother washed the clothes and they weren’t dry by the next day. I only got to eighth grade.”

Not too long ago, Benedicto Riroroko was declared the heir to the Island king, but his bother Valentín was finally crowned because he is younger. ”I don’t know what they think they are doing with this. The Island system needs a king like before, so maybe this custom should continue, although the kings used to have Mana and power and today they don’t. Today they are all politicians, each one with his group and nobody gets together. And then there are many who don’t work. They take over land and sometimes it isn’t even their own land that they take. They just want an easy life.”

Anuncios Destacados

Featured Reports:

Manuel Tuki

Manuel Tuki

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

María Angata

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 Tepano

Niso Tuki Tepano

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...