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The altar at Easter Island"s Anakena site, wherein Sergio Rapu led the 1978 restoration and also re-erection of seven of the island"s gigantic carved "moai." Photo courtesy the Clive Ruggles.

urbanbreathnyc.com student and also former governor Sergio Rapu grapples with taking Easter Island into the 21st century 15 November 2002

by Bonnie Azab Powell, public Affairs urbanbreathnyc.com - Rotary civilization Peace Scholar Sergio Rapu is a little different native your typical UC urbanbreathnyc.com student.
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for one, he has a couple of more gray hairs. The 53-year-old dad of two college-age children, Rapu is both paternal toward and in awe that his fellow students: "I feel like their daddy, yet they room all such bright kids — smarter than me," he says. His energy is boundless: twice a day he go up and also down the steep hill native the International residence to the urbanbreathnyc.com BART station just for exercise. And also even amid urbanbreathnyc.com"s commemorated diversity, Rapu"s birthplace qualifies together exotic: Easter Island, house to the renowned moai — those enigmatic, monolithic stone heads — and also one of the world"s many geographically secluded places, every alone in the south Pacific.
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"If us don"t fix these difficulties of advance versus conservation, us may face the island spoiled totally, turned into a shantytown quite than a beautiful, open-air museum, simply because we didn"t learn to take care of it ahead of time." —Sergio Rapu, Rotary human being Peace Scholar. (Photo by BAP)
It"s likewise a safe bet that he"s the only former governor right now on campus. Branch of the island"s 3,000 residents from 1984 come 1990, Rapu was the an initial native Easter Islander (or Rapanui, the name preferred by the native people) to organize the article since the island was linked by Chile in 1888. He"s rapid to suggest out, however, that like many residents, he"s not 100 percent Rapanui: "I contact myself "chop suey." My grand was Scottish, my great-grandfather was Danish, and then there"s some French, Chinese, and Chilean blood in there, too." Rapu has put his job on hold and also come to urbanbreathnyc.com with one ambitious goal: to find a means that Easter Islanders can protect their heritage while finding their location in the 21st century. "I"ve really adjusted my life 180 levels — I had a most projects and research going," that says. (He to be just around to complete the Anakena reconstruction project, pictured at top.) "At urbanbreathnyc.com I desire to build up skills and work on propose the island urgently needs. Because if we don"t solve these difficulties of advance versus conservation, we may confront the island spoiled totally, turned into a shantytown rather than a beautiful, open-air museum, and also our culture will be lost." The Navel that the World one anthropologist and also archaeologist by training, Rapu is provided to explaining the background of the island to those who understand it only from the Sony advertising (in i beg your pardon the moai groove come headphones). The Rapanui are descended from at an early stage Polynesians who arrived around 400 A.D. And remained isolated till a netherlands explorer, Jacob Roggeveen, landed in 1722. Roggeveen called the island ~ Easter Sunday, the day he landed, yet the Rapanui name, dare Pito O te Henua — translated about as "Navel that the World" — seems an ext apt for this 66-square-mile speck that lava rock, lying 2,500 mile from Chile and also 2,000 miles from Tahiti in the southern Pacific ocean. Roggeveen was simply the an initial of a tide of devastating European and also South American visitors. In 1805 an American ship, the Nancy, quit at the island and also kidnapped 22 men and women for compelled labor. Peruvian slave traders began making continuous raids ~ above the island in the 1860s. When popular opinion in Peru turned against the servant trade, initiatives were made come repatriate some Easter Islanders: unfortunately the small percentage who survived the tortuous return trip carried smallpox with them, decimating the staying population. In ~ the island"s low point its citizens numbered little more than 100. In the 1880s, Christian missionaries functioning in the south Pacific take it up the plight the Easter Island and also began negotiating because that its annexation to its remote neighbor Chile, which can protect it from slave trader incursions. In 1888 the Rapanui chiefs voted unanimously to cede sovereignty come Chile, which has held the island ever before since.Things did not improve considerably under Chile, which allowed Chilean suppliers to take over the island and also basically turn it right into a huge sheep farm, with the islanders confined to Hangaroa, the key village. The only continuous visitors were the Chilean navy and shipwrecked crews. (Easter Island"s shore is therefore treacherous that even today, ships need to anchor offshore and also ferry passengers in by small boat.) The lamb completed the denuding the vegetation that the Rapanui had started long ago and by the 1940s, the island was usually a fiefdom because that the Chilean navy. In 1955, the island had its many constructive visitor: the Norwegian historical Expedition headed by Thor Heyerdahl, famed for building and sailing a primitive raft indigenous Peru throughout the sea come the Tuamotus Islands. Heyerdahl to be the first to excavate and publicize Easter Island"s rich social heritage; among his team members, wilhelm Mulloy, later on returned to the island and spearheaded the motion to re-erect statues, reclaim sites, and also begin one island-wide historical survey. In 1965, Alfonso Rapu — Sergio Rapu"s older brothers — led an insurrection that required the Chilean government to return legal rights to the land and also its priceless archeological treasures to the Rapanui. Alfonso Rapu to be the an initial Rapanui to be chosen mayor of the island; 22 year later, his tiny brother would come to be the group"s very first governor. A grand, open-air museumSergio Rapu has been pondering the island"s future when caring because that its past since 1971, as soon as he worked as the curator that Easter Island"s museum. ""Curator" is kind of a grand word because that what i did. Ns was the only employee, so i cleaned floors, turned off the lights, picked up civilization from the airport," the laughs. But that"s exactly how Rapu met Mulloy, who ended up being his mentor — happen him come the college of Wyoming in 1973 for his bachelor"s in anthropology. He adhered to it v a master"s indigenous the college of Hawaii, specializing in Pacific society and archaeology. Because then, in enhancement to serving together governor and also overseeing restoration projects on Easter Island, he has actually headed the Institute for Polynesian research studies at Hawaii"s Brigham Young University and consulted for numerous nonprofits on Polynesian preservation efforts. He and also his wife, a fellow archaeologist, division their time in between Hawaii — whereby they have the right to be closer to their youngsters enrolled at mainland U.S. Colleges — and Rapu"s homeland. Meanwhile, Easter Island"s museum has actually grown indigenous one employee come 12 and quadrupled in size, recounts Rapu proudly. That change reflects the development of the island"s key industry: tourist visitors to the estimated 20,000 archeological sites that dot the landscape, consisting of 800 or therefore moai, the giant heads carved from volcanic rock. No one has yet figured out how the Rapanui ancestors moved these inscrutable figures, which variety in size from 6 feet to an ext than 60 feet tall and weigh plenty of tons, native the quarries to their last resting places around the island.
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"People think that the choice is either go v the rest of the planet, or keep your own identification with pride. However it doesn"t have to be one or the other. We have the right to be different and still share in the progress." —Sergio Rapu, Rotary human being Peace Scholar (Photo through BAP)
In fact, once Rapu take it office as governor, most of the moai lay damaged on your sides, toppled by polite war, invaders, and also hurricanes. And also they would certainly probably have stayed that way, if a Japanese construction executive hadn"t occurred to listen Rapu talking around the island"s absence of restoration resources in a 1988 interview ~ above Japanese television. The man referred to as the show and offered the solutions of his company, Tadano. Tadano worked with Rapu and the Chilean government to donate a $1 million crane to the islanders and also teach them exactly how to usage it. Many thanks to the effort, countless moai around the island have been resurrected and revived to their historical residences on Easter Island"s ahu, or shrines. The moai may be far better off, but the occupants of Easter Island quiet face major challenges. Two flights a week from Chile carry the tourists that are the island"s only significant industry, other than subsistence farming and also fishing. And also tourists, that course, deserve to eventually ruin what they concerned see if left unsupervised. Rapu is taking classes in international eco-friendly politics, source management, demography, and also archaeology (to record up on recent conservation research) in search of answers to those dilemmas. "We have to empower the Rapanui owners of the heritage to it is in its long-term guardians," claims Rapui. "We have preserved our society in the method that us relate to each other, ours kinship, our language, our conception that property, and also the way we mark the essential moments that life. Yet I think we need aid from Chile in obtaining the tools, the training, and also proper regulation — possibly through a nongovernmental company or a structure — to maintain our physical heritage together well." The Chilean government has been providing land grants to Easter Island citizens in a rather arbitrary fashion. That method that countless thousands that the precious archaeological sites, include moai, shrines, or petroglyphs, are now in exclusive hands. "Each personal owner must be aware of what"s there," claims Rapu, "so that quite than plowing increase the site and planting potatoes, say, they have an impetus to defend it." In 1995 Easter Island was named to UNESCO"s human being Heritage list of cultural sites, a difference that obligates Chile to protect and also conserve the island"s treasures. Rapu really hopes to persuade the Chilean federal government to set up a structure that might offer the Rapanui a tiny financial impetus to care for the sites on their land. One more possibility would be to charge an island enntrance gate fee for tourists, together the Galapagos Islands perform to raise funds for ecological preservation. Noble savages vs. Contemporary world yet preservation the Easter Island"s physical heritage is simply one of the difficulties that Rapu would prefer to take on. The land itself has actually been deforested and suffers indigenous mineral leeching typical to tiny islands. Although tourism likely will remain the many prominent part of the island"s economy, Rapu think it is possible that careful farming management might restore the floor and permit the Rapanui to flourish pineapples, mangos, spices, and also flower extracts for perfume. This high value, tiny volume assets could survive the trip to Chile and also earn revenue for the islanders without additional damaging one of two people the floor or the archaeological sites. "Development is about much more than just avoiding Easter Island from coming to be a Waikiki-style resort," says Rapu. "It"s about whether islanders have actually the possibility to end up being doctors and also lawyers quite than being anglers all your lives, and also can perform that without forgetting our society or exactly how to speak to our relatives. The development of society is happening at a faster and also faster pace. If we insist on distinct treatment, we operation the hazard of gift the noble savages who obtain left behind. Human being think the the choice is one of two people go through the remainder of the planet, or preserve your own identity with pride. Yet it doesn"t have to be one or the other. We deserve to be different and still re-publishing in the progress." he would choose to see a important bilingual education (in Rapanui and Spanish) presented to the island"s school, and much more written messages that would assist the non-Rapanui residents — about half the island"s population — know the history of their embraced home. "Our numbers space so tiny now the we deserve to only flourish by inviting more people to join our culture." Rapu is optimistic that despite the ravages Easter Island and also its civilization have experienced in the past two centuries, the Rapanui can recover and prosper. "When i look back at our history I check out that the Chilean federal government has tried come respond positively to the Rapanui. The challenge for us now is to continue to lobby because that the funds and the sources that we need, and to communicate much better what those points are," that says.


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"And us must also be careful in our integration. Before, we want all the services of citizenship; now, we must sift the virtues from the vices in stimulate to keep our heritage."