This year Rapa Nui celebrates half a century since the island territory was officially recognized as part of Chile through the Easter Act. Among the many tributes and scheduled activities a time capsule which will keep history and cultural symbols, family letters and messages of President Bachelet and former Presidents Frei and Piñera was buried. The capsule made of steel and wood will be opened in 2066 by future generations.
Easter Island and the Chilean sovereignty
The island territory was annexed to Chile in 1888; however the Rapa Nui ethnic group had to wait about 80 years for it to be formalized administratively. Almost 8 decades in which the inhabitants of Easter Island had no identity card, court or municipality. During the government of President Eduardo Frei Montalva, on March 1st 1966 Law No. 16,441 was published in the Official State Gazette previously approved by the Congress on February 22nd the same year. This law joined the islanders to the Chilean territorial organization back then creating the department of Easter Island under the province of Valparaiso. This law brought many benefits to the community, as well as some loopholes that today quietly threaten the sense of security that has always characterized this beautiful place
Law 16,441 also known as Easter Act granted voting rights to the islanders finally recognizing full civil rights. At that time Rapa Nui had special needs, requirements and experiences; therefore, in order to adapt the laws applied in Chile to the idiosyncrasy of the island the application of the law had to be different from the rest of the country. An identical criminal model to Chile could not have been imposed in in a community where the vast majority of its members did not speak Spanish in such a short time. This law provides a number of articles including number 13 and number 14 which basically allows that perpetrators of a variety of crimes can reduce the punishment and increase their penitentiary benefits.
Easter Act does not protect the victims
In the offenses referred to in the aforementioned articles committed in the island the lower penalty shall be imposed to. At least those offenses specified by the law which means in serious crimes the sentence is lowered immediately in one degree. For instance: a person who is convicted of a felony anywhere in the country is punished with a sentence of five years and one day. In Easter Island when applying this Act the same felony is punished with a sentence of three years and one day. This punishment is given to those who were born in the island regardless of whether or not they are part of the ethnic group and also in cases where the offense is committed within the island territory.
To conclude together both laws cause the inhabitants accused of committing crimes in Easter Island do not effectively serve the prison service. According to data provided by Chilean Penitentiary System both items are used today and sometimes have been used in more than one crime to avoid justice. These two articles of Law 16,441 hold a system that benefits criminals above the protection it should pay the same law to victims.
On June 27th, Easter Island dressed up to celebrate one of the most important religious celebrations of the Rapanui culture.
The celebration of Saints Peter and Paul who are considered the patron saints of the sea and fishermen in Chile, brought together tourists, Chilean residents and the Rapanui community around one of the most representative traditional culinary preparations in Easter Island. In a fraternal and thaksgiving atmosphere around three thousand people attended Hanga Piko small cove to eat and enjoy the curanto also called “Umu” in the local language, without having to pay for food.
The umu is a Rapanui dish cooked in something similar to an earth oven. In the past this way of cooking was the only way in which the islanders would cook all their food. This delicious typical island dish which is very similar to the Chilean curanto is prepared in a hole in the the ground. The main difference between the two is that in southern Chile people add seafood as an extra ingredient. On the contrary, in Polynesia people add fruits. The most typical of all manifestations of the Rapanui cuisine is prepared by digging a hole in the ground and cooking food with the heat of hot stones in order to celebrate different events during life. That’s why there are different types of umu either to celebrate a marriage, to honor a deceased person or to a newborn baby, housewarming or to ask for protection and well augurs before a trip. All this is done as a compromise and a way to show respect as the local food is considered a language that allows us to see from an anthropological perspective the history of Rapa Nui.
The previously dug hole is filled with firewood and stones of volcanic origin. Fire is set in order to warm the stones red hot in the same way as it was done for hundreds of years in ancient times. Once the stones are hot they are covered with banana leaves and on these leaves different types of meat such as beef, pork, chicken and fish are put in layers separated by banana leaves and a new layer of hot stones. On the latter the process is repeated, but this time the upper layers are covered by vegetables, mainly root vegetables such as sweet potato, taro and cassava. Finally everything is covered with banana leaves again and soil.
The cooking process of this dish takes about 6 hours and it is usually accompanied by other traditions such as getting dressed in the old style and singing songs. The curanto is a community meal as the main reason to eat and share this dish is to celebrate a fraternal meeting.
Due to the great resemblance between the curanto from Chiloe and curanto from Rapanui some anthropologists have postulated that the first colonization of southern Chile was done by Polynesian natives who brought the recipe to new territory and adapted it adding new ingredients and seafood they found there.
The 9th conference on Easter Island and the Pacific has started. This year it’s held in the ethnological museum in Berlin, Germany. Easter Island archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists and Easter Island enthusiasts will present their latest research on this remote, unique and interesting island. Many also attend the conference to merely listen and learn.
The conference has been organized by a group of German investigators – Nikolaus Schlüter, Hans-Rudolf Bork, Andreas Mieth, Thomas Kersten, Annette Kühlem, Burkhard Vogt and Johannes Moser. They have had some great findings in Ava Ranga Uka a Toroke Hau (trench where lots of water gathers in winter) about ancient Rapa Nui water management, with evidence demonstrating that there was a group of people that actually planted palm trees, when the rest of Rapa Nui was being deforested.
The 9th Easter Island conference will be held during June 21st – 26th. There are more than 90 speakers. Below are some of the topics that will be focused on:
Land use and the transformation of land- and seascapes
Palaeobotanics and the cultural role of plants
Diet, death and demography
Strategies of communication
New results on rongorongo research
Collections and archives in Rapa Nui studies
Arts and sculpture
Moai and ahu: new studies and theories
Lithic production, provenance and quarries
Documentation of sites and objects: techniques and tasks
Rapa Nui site and research management
Education and cultural heritage
Land and cultural identity
Tourism on Rapa Nui
Rapa Nui – the view from outside
In the afternoon of the 21st there was a reception at the guesthouse of the German Archaeological Institute.
A while back, polemic news of “Easter Island heads having bodies” were spread all over internet, though we have known this for hundreds of years. The first Europeans that reached this island in 1722 saw this when they discovered the island, and it has been known ever since.
Many had seen images of moai statues in the volcanic statue quarry Rano Raraku where the bodies of the statues are buried into the ground. This, in conjunction with photos of American archaeologist Jo Anne Val Tilburg‘s excavations in the same area uncovering a statue made many draw conclusions that statues having bodies was recently discovered. On the contrary, we have known this since Europeans first visited this island in 1722.
Few have the courage to enter the world’s greatest oceans on a small boat to sail around the world. Young Swedes Melvin Svensson, 25, and Emil Wärme, 23, are among those who have what it takes. The goal was to take their boat Frivarv around the globe in three years. Eleven months after they left Sweden, at the opposite side of Earth, their boat was crushed against the hard volcanic rocks of a South Pacific island. This tiny island is of the most uncommon kind – it is one of the most remote and mysterious places on Earth – Easter Island.
One year and 11 000 nautical miles ago, 150 people took farewell of the yacht Frivarv as it sailed off from Melvin’s and Emil’s hometown of Nynäshamn in Sweden. Melvin, the captain of the boat, was accompanied by three other friends, and Emil did not join in until the boat had crossed the Atlantic and reached the Caribbean. More friends flew then in from Sweden, and the crew of eight people sailed the Caribbean for seven weeks. Unfortunately they got too familiar with the health idiosyncrasy of the region when almost everyone of them was struck by the tropical dengue fever; infected wounds, strong pains and high fever.
In spite of the illness hardships in the Caribbean, as six of the crew ended their trip, Emil chose to change his plans; he wanted to accompany his friend Melvin sailing around the world. After crossing Panama, Melvin and Emil were helplessly alone in the world’s greatest ocean – the vast Pacific Ocean.
On their way to Galapagos Islands, the sailors had seen a movie called 180° South, in which a sail boat visits Easter Island and takes local singer and surf girl Alica “Makohe” Ika with them for their journey towards the south of Chile. Thrilled by the fascinating story of Easter Island told in this movie, Melvin and Emil decided to after Galapagos take a detour to Easter Island, instead of continuing straight into French Polynesia. They were not aware of that this detour would change many things.
After three solitary weeks of not seeing any sign of land or human life, on the 27th of July they finally reached Easter Island, known to locals by its true, Polynesian name – Rapa Nui. This island was named The Navel of the World by the ancient inhabitants, which is quite fitting, as around the horizon there is nothing else but ocean.
They quickly got into the friendly, small-town atmosphere and soon got to know a Rapa Nui family that received them well. The Swedes learned about daily Easter Island life and gastronomy, trying out new foods such as barbequed cow head, heart and braided intestines. Suddenly they found themselves participating in a private ceremony. They held hands with the family, forming a big circle. Earth was uncovered from the ground in the center, where food had been cooking for hours. Melvin and Emil were not allowed to eat from this food, as they were “tapu” – forbidden, sacred. A small earth pit with food had been prepared especially for them. An infant that was born early had just died. The Swedish sailors had come from so far to get here, and this was seen as a sign. An elder prayed out loud in native Rapa Nui language. Melvin and Emil had come to take the bad energy of the latest occurrences away from the island when they leave. Little did they know that leaving wouldn’t be as easy as expected.
As strange coincidences is nothing rare at The Navel of the World, Melvin one day in the street spotted a familiar face – Alicia “Makohe” Ika from the movie 180° South. “You’re famous”, he said, and as soon as she found out that he is from Sweden, she responded in Swedish saying that she is married to the single Swede living at Easter Island (Marcus Edensky of Easter Island Traveling), and they all soon became good friends.
Melvin and Emil were enjoying newfound Easter Island friendships, but they still had their goal clear; to circumnavigate the world. As preparations were being done to continue their journey they would sleep in town and had left the boat in the bay Hanga Nui behind Ahu Tongariki where the water was calm. In the middle of the night of the 8th of August they suddenly received an unsettling phone call from the navy – the wind had turned and their boat had crashed into the rocks.
The sailors immediately went to the other side of the island where the yacht had crashed. The miserable sight of the vessel sitting on top of the rocks was heartbreaking. They had come this far, but now, their boat and home had been destroyed.
In the darkness of the night they took what personal belongings they could find and carry, and returned to town. In the morning, when they were back at the boat to continue bringing belongings to town, they had a shocking surprise; any and all items of value had been stolen. In the moment when they had believed things couldn’t go any worse, they learned that this was not the case. Everything was gone. Computers, iPhones, iPads, sailor jackets, ropes, clothes, climbing equipment, 50 bottles of Caribbean rum, radar, radio, GPS, motor, solar panels and much more, to a total value of 25000 USD.
The next days were spent depressingly removing boat parts, often with a chainsaw, that can be reused or sold, such as mast, sail and secondary motor. They would often encounter with locals that were under the impression of that the boat had no owners, trying to break off reusable pieces of the boat.
When everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts.
– Yvon Chouinard, 180° South
The Easter Island community with a population of 6000 is like a family, and when something like this happens, everyone feel bad for the victims. Alicia Ika let shop owners know of the tragic events. To help restore Melvin’s and Emil’s faith in Rapa Nui, they contributed with many generous gifts – mainly food and clothes. The Swedes were overwhelmed with the generosity of the community, which helped them look positively towards the future.
Marcus and Alicia have been helping out with errands that language barriers otherwise would have made complicated, such as dealing with police and navy, with the hope of one day retrieving the stolen goods. The family that the sailors got to know has been giving a place to stay. Melvin and Emil have the support of new-found family and friends every day.
“This is the only place that has felt as a home to us”, Emil says. “People are so nice. Many approach us and say they are sorry and embarrassed of what has happened. Wherever we go, we are invited to eat.”
The current plan is to buy a new boat in the vicinity to continue their adventure.
“Our dream is to continue sailing westward and complete our round-the-world trip”, Melvin says. “We will do everything we can to fulfill that dream”.
History was made last month in the ATA/STF taekwondo world cup of Arkansas, when the taekwondo group from tiny south pacific Easter Island won an impressive 29 medals, in spite of a great disadvantage in experience.
– “Some have been at one competition before, but for the others it’s the first time”, their instructor Cristian Marinao, 3rd dan, says.
As most other competitors had done at least 30 competitions and each one entered the world cup as champions of their areas, the Easter Island taekwondo group had the honor of entering the world cup on a special invitation.
Easter Island, also known by the locals as Rapa Nui, is one of the world’s most remote locations, 2000 km from closest inhabited landmass and 3600 km from Chile and the closest flight connection. Rapa Nui is known worldwide as a wonder of the world for its massive moai statues – megaliths tall as multi floor buildings and heavy as 15 elephants, raised centuries ago in the hundreds along the coasts by a stone age society.
In 2011, Chilean taekwondo instructor Cristian Marinao moved to the isolated island of Rapa Nui, with a mere population of 6000. He quickly gained support of people who trusted in his work, and he gained access to a building where he could reach his goal of creating the first Rapa Nui taekwondo federation.
In the Arkansas taekwondo world cup last month, Rapa Nui was acknowledged as ethnic culture of Chile, and participated in the competitions with ancestral face paintings called kī’ea. In spite of the great disadvantage in experience, the Rapa Nui taekwondo federation did extremely well, which was acknowledged when four of the participants personally received a special gift from Grand Master In Ho Lee, current president of ATA/STF taekwondo worldwide.
The Easter Island taekwondo federation received medals in categories: combat, pumse (like the kata of karate), weapons and extreme martial arts.
Bronze medals: 9
Silver medals: 6
Gold medals: 14
The trip to Arkansas was unforgettable and a total satisfaction for everyone representing Easter Island. The next preparations are for the Latin-American championship in Florianopolis, Brazil, in October this year. The goal for the next year for the Easter Island taekwondo federation is to obtain its first generation of black belts, and to represent their island in the 2015 Latin-American championship in Chile with their first group of Easter Island black belts.
Taekwondo instructor Cristian Marinao would like to thank the great support from Master Sotomayor and Victor Rodriguez, representatives of ATA/Chile. He is also eternally grateful to all of the Easter Island community with its companies, locals and others, for their help and trust to make the dream of many children, youngsters and adults to bring the Rapa Nui flag to the rest of the world.