Visiting Isla Isabela in the Galápagos Archipelago

The Wall of Tears

Two views of the Wall of Tears. These small pictures don't do justice to the immense scale of the wall.

Saturday, April 17, 2004 (Day 20 in the Galápagos Archipelago)

We got up early today for a big planned adventure that we had arranged yesterday with Richar and Hernando, a camioneta driver. Our plan was to hitch a ride to several notable but somewhat distant tourist sights, then walk back to town visiting the attractions along the way.

We dinghied ashore and got a ride to El Muro de Lágrimas, the Wall of Tears. Some years back there had been a penal colony on Isla Isabela that had been established long ago by the mainland Ecuadorian government. Although we tourists and nature-lovers consider the Galápagos to be an awesome destination and a real treat to visit, I'm sure the convicts at the penal colony had a completely different point of view. The stark and severe desert landscape, the moonscape lava flows, the lack of fresh water, and the isolation from the mainland must have made it a place to be feared, a place of exile or banishment.

Once we walked down the path and saw the Wall of Tears, it was both stupendous and mortifying. It was an immense wall, tall, very thick, and long. It was so big and robust it reminded me of a Corps of Engineers dam. And it was all made by hand out of individual blocks of basalt, uncountable thousands of them. That was the stupendous part. The mortifying part was contemplating the vast amount of human toil, a back-breaking amount of work, sweating it out under the equatorial sun, all to build this pointless and useless wall. That's how you punish people. Take years of their life and thousands of man-hours of their strenuous effort, and waste it all on a completely pointless and futile effort. That's probably why they call it the Wall of Tears—it was just a crying shame—but like they say, if you don't want to do the time, don't do the crime. The penal colony has long since been abandoned, but the wall has been left as a memorial to the prisoners who worked and suffered on Isla Isabela.

A close-up of the wall, with Marcie and David.   Marcie standing near the end of the wall, looking towards the stairs in the distance (built-in to the hillside).

David and Marcie climbing the stairs in the hillside.   A top view of the wall.

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