Easter Island copes with world heritage designation
In this story:
October 16, 1996
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT)
From Correspondent Ronnie Lovler
EASTER ISLAND, Chile (CNN) -- Easter Island, one of the
world's most remote places, is struggling to cope with a new
distinction: It was recently named by UNESCO as a World
There is little question that Easter Island offers fantastic
marvels, what archeologist Claudio Cristino describes as "one
of the most important archeological sites in world."
The island's relics -- some weigh hundreds of tons and rise
60 feet or 20 meters -- stand as "an extraordinary example of
investigation and creativity," Cristino said.
The distinctive monuments -- known as the Maoi -- along with
the prehistoric etchings, give this tiny 46-square-mile
island the ambiance of an open air museum.
And while local authorities are pleased by the recent UNESCO
decision, there is growing worry that it be a mixed blessing
for the island's 3,000 inhabitants.
'We have our rights'
"We have to remember that the island is a place where human
beings live and we have to develop too," said Jacobo Hey,
governor of the island. "We have the same needs as anyone
else ... we can't be a museum for the world. We want to be a
museum, but we have our rights ... to a better way of life."
There are other problems. Easter Island is located 2,000
miles off the coast of Chile. Because of the its small size
and land tenancy problems, some islanders leave horse and
cattle to graze on the protected area where the monuments are
"We have only eight park rangers, and the danger now is
general management of the island," said Jose Miguel Ramirez,
Administrator of Rapa Nui National Park. "We have cattle that
belong to the Rapa Nui people. They have no place for cattle
so there is no way, until now, to control this."
The Moai were built by a people who were nearly wiped out by
endemic tribal warfare and later contacts with European
adventurers and Latin American slave traders. By the 1870s
only 111 Easter Islanders remained.
There are still plenty of questions surrounding Easter
Island. Where did the first Easter Islanders come from? How
did they chisel the statues in this quarry on the side of a
volcano? How did they move them. Why did they do it?
The mystique of the Moai have seldom failed to intrigue those
who gaze upon them. Now these giant stone statues and the
archeological mysteries scattered around the island have been
recognized as world treasures.
Related sites: Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.