Easter Island’s mayor has called for motor restrictions to be put in place after a truck collided with a sacred stone monument.
A Chilean man has been charged with damaging the national monument, after a brake failure saw his truck hit a sacred ‘moai’ statue, causing “incalculable” damage to it and its platform, according to Chilean politician and Mayor of Easter Island Pedro Edmunds Paoa, as reported by Chilean newspaper El Mercurio de Valparaíso.
The statue is one of around 1,000 sacred ‘moai’ that dot Easter Island, which were built by the local Rapa Nui people and are believed by their creators to carry the spirits of prominent ancestors, and seen as living incarnations of their relatives.
“Everyone decided against establishing traffic rules when it came to vehicles on sacred sites but we, as a council, were talking about the dangers and knew very well what the rise in tourist and resident numbers could mean”, Edmunds Poa told El Mercurio.
“They didn’t listen to us and this is the result.”
President of the Ma’u Henua community Camilo Rapu, which looks after the moai, said the crash may have been deliberate.
“As people know, the moai are sacred structures that possess a religious value for the people of Rapa Nui,” he said.
“Something like this isn’t just dreadful – it’s an offence against a living culture that has spent the last few years fighting to regain its historic and archaeological heritage.”
The group reiterated the importance of taking care of Easter Island’s heritage in a post on Facebook:
Easter Island lures some 12,000 tourists per month, with the moai statues a key drawcard to the island. However, while they are an important feature of the Polynesian island, they aren’t always treated with the respect they deserve.
In July last year, a slew of nose-picking selfies from tourists with moai contributed to concerns by experts that the island is suffering from overtourism.
Featured image: Sunrise over Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island (iStock.com/HappyToBeHomeless)