On Easter Island, we no longer want to travel the world before

Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2022 at 12:38 pm

Easter Islanders have lived for two years without unexpected financial gain from mass tourism due to the pandemic.

While visitors are always welcome, the people of Rapa Nui now wish to perpetuate a rediscovered ancestral way of life, protect their island and resist the temptation to return to the ancient world.

“The moment has finally come when the old people have predicted,” Julio Hutos, a member of the Council of Elders from Easter Island, isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 3,500 kilometers from the Chilean coast and is world famous, told AFP. Hundreds of huge statues, moai.

Warning recent generations pretended to listen.

Overnight in March 2020, 7,000 permanent residents along 24 km and 12 islands wide cut all air links with the outside world to protect themselves from SARS-CoV-2.

– back to earth –

Olga Ikabakarati used to sell moai stone figurines to tourists, but had to be determined to rediscover her ancestors’ gestures and cultivate the land.

“We found ourselves with nothing, so we started gardening” around the wooden house and its tin roof, she told AFP.

In order to meet the needs of the population, the Easter Island municipality urgently developed a seed distribution program and Olga planted tomatoes, spinach, beets, chard and celery, as well as herbs: basil, oregano and coriander.

What she did not consume, she gave to other families, who in turn shared their harvest with others, thus forming a vast network of mutual aid.

“All the islanders are like this, they have their hearts on their sleeves. If I see that I have enough (vegetables), I give it to another family,” adds this Noa, or grandmother in Rapa Nui, who lives with her children and grandchildren.

After two years of breaking free from the frenzy of mass tourism, the islanders have lived a new life and today do not want to go back to the pre-pandemic period that saw 11 weekly planes landing 160,000 tourists each year.

“We will continue tourism, but I hope the pandemic will be a lesson to remember for the future,” Julio Hutos said.

On Thursday, after 28 months of isolation, a plane landed for the first time, sparking enthusiasm among residents eager to see new faces.

The reopening of the tourism doors will be gradual, with two flights per week, but the frequency will gradually increase. At the moment, large hotels are still closed.

– Weak moai –

Forced isolation has also led the people of Rapa Nui to think about the urgent need to nurture natural resources: access to water and green energy production.

Priority will also be given to islanders in terms of jobs, in application of “cultural norms” such as Tabu, an inherited norm that promotes solidarity, explained Easter Island Mayor Pedro Edmunds Bawa.

And he adds: “The tourist, from today, has become a friend of the place, while before that he was a foreigner visiting us.”

Sculpted moai that can be up to 20 meters high and weigh 80 tons, are also the emblems of Easter Island with the mysteries surrounding them, at the center of the new reflections.

“Climate change, with these extreme events, is jeopardizing our archaeological heritage,” warns Vairoa Ika, the municipality’s director of environment.

“The stone is insulting, so the parks will take measures and protect them,” she explains, without further details.

“The problem with moai is that it is very fragile (…) we must leave aside the tourist vision and the landscape and take care of these pieces and protect them” because “they have immeasurable value,” adds Julio Hutos. He will listen to his old advice.

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