24 June 2020

Tapu, Rapa Nui’s ancestral philosophy that has been key to eradicating Covid-19

Despite being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and more than 2,000 km away from the nearest inhabited land, the coronavirus managed to enter the remote Easter Island. In March, the first active cases of Covid-19 were detected on this land in Chilean Polynesia, but Rapa Nui’s ancestral philosophy has been key to eradicating the virus from their territory.

The “Tapu” is a Polynesian concept of self-care and shelter, a strict regime of protection of the people against any adversity. In this case, against the pandemic. For this reason, the mayor of Rapa Nui, Pedro Edmunds Paoa, invoked the “tapu” among the inhabitants of the island, where today live more than 7,000 people. The ancestral measure has become an example of responsibility based on respect for the community, as it was explained by Mr. Edmunds in the video below.

According to the mayor, the “tapu” is a way to protect the elderly and their wisdom, which is the cultural, philosophical and historical sustenance of the Rapa Nui people. This measure consisted of strict confinement, especially for the elderly, and was widely respected by the population. Therefore, this corner of the Polynesia managed to eradicate the coronavirus from its territory. If at peak time they had 7 active cases of Covid-19, currently this number has decreased to zero. Now that the island is free of the virus, a new ancestral concept has been applied since the beginning of June: “Umanga”.

PEDRO EDMUNDS PAOA / ALCALDE DE RAPA NUIThe Rapanui are one of the 9 recognized indigenous peoples of Chile, whose wisdom and ancient traditions are passed down from generation to generation and enrich our culture. We are talking about the Aymara, Quechua, Atacameño, Colla, Diaguita, Mapuche, Yagán, Kaweskar and Rapa Nui. Every year on June 24, Chile celebrates the National Day of Indigenous People, a date that refers to the renewal of nature and a new cycle of life after the winter solstice, and recognizes the value of indigenous heritage in our history.

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