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Mangareva, a well-kept secret of French Polynesia

Mangareva is an island that has always been in my family history, why? I have a little History for you. 

First context, by the time of European arrival to Rapa Nui in 1722, the island's population was estimated to be 2,000 to 3,000. European diseases, Peruvian slave raiding expeditions in the 1860s, and emigration to other islands such as Tahiti further depleted the population, reducing it to a low of 111 native inhabitants in 1877.  

Hippolyte Roussel was a French priest and missionary to Polynesia, a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. In 1854 he was sent to evangelize in the Tuamotus and Mangareva in the Gambier Islands. In 1866 he was appointed to lead a new mission to Rapa Nui In 1871, after a conflict with the manager of the Brander plantation, Jean-Baptiste Dutrou-Bornier, he went to Rikitea on Mangareva with 168 Rapanui, and led the mission there until he died in 1898. 

In this group there were 2 important people, one was Maria Angata Veri Tahi a Paengo Hare Kohou, On Mangareva, she began learning the Christian scriptures by heart. Father Roussel trained her to become a catechist or lay teacher for the new Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. When Angata returned to Easter Island in October 1879, she worked as co-catechist Pakomīo Māʻori Ure Kino (c. 1816/1836–1908/1909), whom she had married on Mangareva. They became the island's principal spiritual leaders in the absence of a resident missionary. They had six children together. In 1914 she led an unsuccessful rebellion on the island against the Williamson-Balfour Company, intending to create a theocracy centered on Roman Catholicism and Rapa Nui spiritual values.  

On the other hand, Pakomīo before Mangareva, was a Warrior for the Marama tribe he looked after their territorial borders then was taken as slave to Peru and in 1863 was one of the few who made it back to Rapa Nui, then migrated to Mangareva and Married Angata. These two incredible Human beings are my great-grandparents from my father’s side.  

Getting to Mangareva by sailing as they did it more than 100 years ago and seeing the island that sheltered them in those turbulent years in Rapa Nui is something very special for me, when Bark Europa anchored in Rikitea the main village I felt an indescribable emotion thinking about my ancestors getting to the same place, I feel gratitude for that “Fenua” (land) that take care of some Rapa Nui Families. 

Mangareva is a special place that reminds me of the Rapa Nui of my childhood, nobody rushes they live to their own rhythm, 3 little shops, no bars, 1 main road, no traffic, poor cellphone reception, thousands of black pearls nets buoys, stunning sunrises, super friendly, kind, and some shy people. Some local families who received us welcomed us with flowers necklaces, fruit buffet, and the local school played drums and danced for us.  

Beautiful and full of love. Amazing crystal clear turquoise waters white sand beaches, green mounts, coconuts everywhere, tropical fruits just fallen from the trees…real paradise.  

Mangareva community is small and everybody knows each other, it looks like time passes slower on that island and everybody says hi on the road. I met a distant family of my aunty in Rapa Nui they went to the boat landing and they treat me like close family since the beginning, Mama Monica the matriarch hugged me like her little granddaughter 

made flower and shell necklaces for me and told me histories about the Rapa Nui who arrived with Father Russell and how Maria Angata was a remarkable figure in the local Catholic community, she showed me books about the Gambier Island genealogy and how the Rapa Nui were mixed with the local community and old pictures of life in Mangareva she was happy to share. More specific details of the people around the 

1870 can be found in the missionary in Papeete so I’ll keep researching.  

One day I met Juan Arsenio Tepano Chavez, he was born in Rapa Nui but raised in Mangareva we spoke fluently in the Rapa Nui language he was so happy to talk and share since flying to Mangareva is expensive and there are not many tourists and less Rapa Nui people get here. He came on the last day when we were departing to say bye and he said next year he is moving to Rapa Nui after more than 30 years, he wants to see his family there and his Henua (land in Rapa Nui). 

Mama Monica and her family harvested fruits from her garden for the EUROPA, papayas, passion fruit, pamplemousse, sugar cane, etc they brought to the ship just like some decades ago when ships were the only way to supply the Polynesian islands. This became a tradition that shows the essence of the Polynesian spirit. 

I asked around the crew voyage about their feeling about this island and we all agreed that we felt loved in this place, Mauruuru Roa (thanks a lot) Mangareva you have my Mafatu (heart) forever. 

Geschreven door:
Tavake Pakomio | Guide

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