Wall of Tears – Ecuador - Atlas Obscura

Wall of Tears

Building this tragically pointless stone barrier cost the lives of the prisoners made to build it. 


On the otherwise picturesque Galapagos Island of Isabela, the appropriately named Wall of Tears is an ugly and completely pointless barrier made of sharp volcanic slag standing as a monument to the prisoners who were forced to build it and those that are said to have died in the effort. 

In the mid-20th century remote Isabela Island was home to a bleak penal colony that stood in stark contrast to the Galapagos’ natural beauty. As punishment for their crimes, the prisoners who were sent to Isabela were forced to begin building a wall, ostensibly the first in what would eventually become their own permanent prison building. The forced laborers would have to chisel heavy, irregular pieces of volcanic rock from a quarry site a long walk away and lug the sharp stones back to the build site by hand. The wall reaches up to 65 feet and runs over 300 feet long and its construction was dangerous work in the ill-equipped conditions resulting in the deaths of a number of prisoners from both sickness and calamity.

Today it seems clear that the construction of the wall was simply a form of punishment through labor, its purpose being nothing more than to cause misery. It still stands all alone on Isabela island, blocking nothing from anything. Visitors can actually walk up to the top of the wall and get an idea of how high it is and how easy it would have been to fall off with a little wooziness from the tropical sun. The penal colony on the island is long gone, but the memory of the cruelty inflicted there lives on.

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