Samoa's general elections had ended four days ago, but the process was far from over.
As we drive along the long Mulinu'u Road that runs along the city's isthmus to the homonymous tip, we come across a committee of delegates dressed in the rigor of the nation who recount the votes and meticulously fill in the results on large slate boards.
45 seats were qualified for the 15th term of the Fono, the Legislative Assembly and the Human Rights Protection Party won 36, in an unequivocal victory that, as is often the case on those sides, soon became embroiled in controversy.
Years have passed since the arrival of the first European discoverers, Samoa has become the first territory of the Pacific to conquer its independence and, since 1962, it has been solving problems that are its own.
The Courageous Solidarity of the Newcomer Robert Louis Stevenson
But more than a century earlier, around the 1890s, the natives had both unexpected and enthusiastic support from Robert Louis Stevenson, a writer fresh from a fascinating journey across the Pacific: Hawaii, Tahiti and the Society's Archipelago, Gilbert Islands, New Zealand and Samoa.
Delighted by his generosity but also by the charisma of the Scotsman, they called him Tusitala or storyteller, in the Polynesian Samoan dialect.
"The Treasure Island" and "The Doctor and the Monster" ("Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde”) were some of the ones that he created and told the world and that made him world famous.
The influence it exerted on island politics and destinies quickly became defiant and provoked successive shock waves: during his stay, Stevenson found that the European officers appointed to govern the Samoans were incompetent.
After several unsuccessful attempts to solve the problems, he published “Footnote to History” a manifesto that resulted in the demobilization of two officers of the colonial powers and which the author feared would provoke their extradition.\
Vila Vailima: The Home of Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa
These fears have not been proven. Stevenson has even become friends with powerful politicians and their families, notably that of US Commissioner Henry Clay Ide. At the same time, it deepened its roots on the island.
Villa Vailima, the wooden mansion he built on the property he acquired and housed most of his retreat, withstood the reaction of the then administration unscathed. And, to the relief of the Samoans, also the great earthquake that shook the archipelago in 2009, with an intensity of 8.1 on the Richter scale.
Today, Villa Vailima is one of the most respected and appreciated places in Upolu, a symbol of its exuberant multiculturalism that we are keen to visit.
Margaret Silva. The Portuguese-Descendant Employee of the Vailima Museum
Upon arrival, our guide Anthony introduces us to the museum's hostess, named Margaret Silva. The color of her skin, the profile of her face and the nickname leave us intrigued, but since neither Anthony nor Margaret give us any clues, we are forced to inquire about the lady's origins. “Silva?
Your surname must be Portuguese or Spanish, no? And, don't take this the wrong way, but it doesn't look 100% Samoan.”
Anthony realizes what's going on and validates the suspicion. “Oh, sure. You are Portuguese! Margaret? You're half Portuguese too, right? Margaret confirms and adds some stunning historical information. “Yes, I'm half Portuguese.
I don't speak much of the language anymore but my grandmother learned from my grandfather and still speaks a little. What happened, in a nutshell, was that he was working on a New Zealand cruise ship that regularly stopped at Apia.
During a break, he met my grandmother in the city and no longer wanted to return to the ship.”
Thus began the saga of the Silvas in Samoa, a family that Anthony assures us is one of the wealthiest and most influential in the nation, owning several businesses including a construction company, grocery stores and gas stations. But the native guide explains more to us.
The presence of the now enormous Silva clan is for him and for the Samoans completely normal, to the point that few remember their origin and genetic difference.
And, remembering the nickname of the author of this text, he adds, for a general laugh: “It's not just the Silvas. Now that I think about it, we also have a big Pereira family. There must be almost as many as the Silvas.
Two of her daughters who live near my parents' village are beautiful. I really like it.”
The Samoan Work and Death of Robert Louis Stevenson
However, Margaret reminds us that the museum closes shortly and suggests that we begin our tour of the mansion. As we do so, it describes the most important or simply curious aspects of Robert Louis Stevenson's life in Upolu.
During his stay, Stevenson wrote prolifically also about life in Samoa and other islands in the Pacific.
In 1894, he went through times of depression and inactivity to which he replied with “Weir of hermiston” with which he became enthusiastic to the point of being convinced that it was the best novel he had ever produced.
But on the night of December 3rd of that year, after having worked hard on the novel, he was opening a bottle of wine when he fell down with his wife.
He was pronounced dead after a few hours, allegedly due to a brain hemorrhage. I was 44 years old.
The Elevated Sepulcher of Mount Vaea
The Samoans honored the funeral wishes of the respected Tusitala. They carried him on their shoulders to the summit of nearby Mount Vaea, where they buried him overlooking the sea.
His sepulcher is now the destination of a sporting pilgrimage for health that Stevenson never had.
As we climb the slope, dozens of Samoans from Apia and even expatriates from Apia pass us by. Upolu, delivered to a jogging strenuous and repetitive starting in the vicinity of Villa Vailima and ending at the top of the elevation.
While we recover from our fatigue observing the tomb and reading the writer's conformed but elegant Requiem, we also leave our sweat there, generated by the heat and humidity that invigorate the lush landscape around us.
And gone on the island that Robert Louis Stevenson loved so much.