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Easter Island In The News

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I noticed this bit in my RSS feed today: Easter Island Fights Prosperity.

Having been there just two months ago, and because its never in the news, I thought I’d chime in on the subject.

Go read the article first…

For a place so dependent on tourism, Easter Island does a very poor job of it. For starters, the Rapa Nui National Park which covers pretty much the entire island and is responsible for the protection and preservation of the maoi on the island is all but non existant. There is a small hut on one end of the island where there are few maoi. In there there is usually a ranger who will give you a map and you pay the equivalent of $10. That’s it. No where else on the island will you find rangers, interpretative centers, signs, anything.

Easter Island was a finalist (top 21) in the New Seven Wonders project. That should give you an idea as to where it sits on the heriarchy of world sites. Given its importance, its sort of sad to see how much effort the Chiliean government has put into it.

All of the maoi which are standing and not in the quarry, have been restored in the last 50 years. Everything in the photo I posted above was restored in the early 1990’s by a Japanese television network. They need cash to restore the hundres of maoi which have fallen or are broken around the island. Also, the maoi are made of a very soft volcanic tuff. Just because they are made of rock doesn’t mean they will last forever.

The article is also spot on with regards to how the people of Hanga Roa are all hustling to get the tourism dollar. There are no major hotels on the island. Everything is guest houses or hostel type accomodiations. Likewise, all the car rentals, restrauants, souviner stand, and tours are local operations.

Rapa Nui also probably has the least amount of ‘culture’ of all the polynesian countries I’ve visited (and I’ve pretty much been to them all now). This is not the fault of the people there as they were all but wiped out in the 19th Century. Also, even though they have the internet and cars on the island now, it is really a stretch to say that civilization has crept onto the island. It is still one of the most isolated spots on Earth, and it shows.

I can’t possibly see how a casino would proper on the island. Of the 50,000 or so visitors who come to the island, I’d guess almost 100% are there to see the maoi. It doesn’t attract the type who want to sit on the beach and drink fruity drinks all day long. I certainly don’t see anyone make the five hour flight (or much longer) to Easter Island to gamble.

The people on the island have a vested interest in the preservation of the maoi. The Chiliean government doesn’t seem to be interested in doing it. Development of tourism is probably the only way to both save the maoi and let the small population of the island make a living.

  • 2 Comments... What's your take?

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Comments

  1. Gary says:

    Jannette, you win the contest for the best comment post ever on my website. Thanks!

    The lack of the “fruity drink” hotels is not only a good thing, but an enivitable result of what draws people to Rapa Nui and the climate. I couldn’t see a resort hotel doing well on the island.

    I do think the issue of protection and restoration of maoi is one that needs to be addressed. But for them, Rapa Nui would be a rock in the middle of the ocean as far as tourism is concerned.

    Also, clearly Rapa Nui has a culture. However, what I experienced there seemed much closer to visiting Chile than visiting any other polynesian country. Your right that there is a story to be told of the people of Rapa Nui and its a very sad story. I dare say it is one of the saddest in the world, but again, it is the maoi that is the tourist draw.

    I appreciate you taking the time to post here.

  2. Jannete says:

    Iorana Koe –

    I think the title Easter Island Fights Prosperity is misleading. Pedro Edmunds, who by the way spent several years in the United States while attending University, is not against prosperity for his people. He is just cautious in the interest of his people, of which I am one. The author, referring to Pedro as an out of touch “tin-pot dictator,” may in fact herself be too far removed from the island and love of the island herself to understand the great strains the island has undergone as a result of progress in the last twenty years.

    The island does need a plan, a commission per say to labor in the interest of the people and not necessarily in the interest of the tourist. A plan for the future, so that what is left of our existing culture is not lost to assimilation. Mr. Edmunds is talking about the future that benefits islanders as well as tourists. For when all is said and done, tourists go home not likely to make such a long journey again to our beloved island. But we must live on our island and as such must make a plan for it that doesn’t cost us the very island that at this point we still own.

    The island doesn’t have the trendy “fruity drink” hotels of say Hawaii or Tahiti. But the many residentials, guest houses and rooms are at least still owned by the Rapa Nui people. The bathrooms they are cleaning are still their own and do not belong to some group of investors that live scattered about the world.

    In conclusion, Mr. Edmunds might be out of touch with the author of the article, but he is not out of touch with his ancestors. If he is boastful of his lineage, culturally speaking this is a good thing. For contrary to popular belief we do have a culture. It is a culture of many hardships in our story, our history, but is a culture that has survived. We are a culture of survival. And to lose what we have left would be sad for the Rapa Nui, even if it is not sad for the tourist.

    Maurur -

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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