If Rapa Nui/Easter Island is on your bucket list, it’s a lot more interesting than you might think.
The island isn’t the easiest place to get to. The nearest airport is a five hour flight from Santiago, Chile, 3,800 kilometres away. The next closest airport is Papeete in Tahiti – 4,200 kms away – in the opposite direction. (The Tahiti flights used to be weekly, but have been temporarily suspended in the time of COVID).
It’s hard to think of anywhere in the world with so much ocean in every direction. The island is the only inhabited dot in the endless southeast Pacific. That’s why NASA upgraded the island’s airport in the 1980’s. They wanted an emergency landing point for the Space Shuttle,
Most people are familiar with the imagery of the island’s stone statues or moai, and also with the apocryphal tale, often told, which claims that the islanders so destroyed their environment that they fell into a downward spiral of warfare, cannibalism, and population decline.
What’s less well known is that contact with the outside world was a very big factor in the island’s population decline. Internal conflicts and introduced diseases contributed of course, but the greatest damage was done by the Peruvian slavers who kidnapped over 1500 people into slavery in the 1860’s.
The slavers caused such outrage that Chile decided to annex the island in 1888, in order to provide the islanders with some protection. By the time Chile took control, there were just 111 islanders left.
Today the population has grown to around 7,000 people, about half of whom trace their lineage to the original survivors. The modern island has a unique blend of Polynesian and Chileano-Latin American culture and faces. It’s an amazing melting pot with such a mysterious past.
Rapa Nui is the only part of Polynesia where Spanish is the language of government.
This video was shot during the 2017 Tapati Festival.
It has optional captions in both English and Spanish.
The direct YouTube link is: https://youtu.be/ag5PDbnFGiw