Visiting the Wall of Tears (El Muro de las Lágrimas) on Isabela Island, Galapagos

Isabela Island, Places to See

One of the interesting historical sites on Galapagos is the Wall of Tears (or in Spanish: El Muro de las Lágrimas).  It is located on Isabela Island and has a very appropriate name, because the history behind it is very sad.


When we first saw the wall it didn’t look that impressive, I was expecting something much larger.  But as we got closer and heard the history behind this site, our opinion changed. It changed because of the way the wall was built.

In the late 1940’s and into the 1950’s this wall was made by hand by prisoners belonging to a penal colony on the island.  They were made to work all day in the hot sun.  They had to walk long distances, cut out large volcanic rocks and then carry them back to the site of what was intended to be their prison.  I would imagine that the large, heavy volcanic rocks would have chafed against the skin, digging in an leaving it scraped, bruised and raw.

The work was so harsh, that many prisoners died, and eventually revolted.  We don’t know how big the prison was going to be, but the portion of the wall that was constructed remains over 100 meters long and 8 meters high.


The dark volcanic rocks were cut out in the shape of large bricks.  To see them all piled up, from a wide base narrowing toward the top and reaching up to over 8 meters high, makes for a very unique structure.  It’s also not hard to visualize the danger involved in the construction.  A fall, or a tumbling brick could have easily led to major injury. A prisoner would not have had much hope of medical attention in a setting like that.


There is a set of stairs leading up the bank to the top of the wall.  The top of the wall is a good location for taking photos.  You can get a shot of the wall and the desert like landscape that surrounds it.


This is a very ugly structure (metaphorically speaking) on a breathtakingly beautiful Island. It was sobering to think about the reality of one man’s paradise being another man’s prison. Isabela Island no longer has a penal colony, and the impression of Isabela left in my mind is that of a paradise, even though the Wall of Tears scars it’s landscape.


Meet the Author

Hi, I'm Dena Haines! I'm an traveler, photographer and Canadian entrepreneur. I'm a partner at Storyteller Media, a content marketing company for travel brands. I blog at GringosAbroad (Ecuador travel) and Click Like This (How to Use a GoPro).

3 comments… add one
  • Bill Harris Jul 8, 2014, 9:25 pm

    In December,1945, I(aPrivate in the Army Air Corps) was flown to Galapagos (the rock)and then taken by boat to a U.S. radar station that I now know was some half dozen miles from Villamill. The war was not long over so the radar set was not active and where there were formerly some fifty or so solders, now there was but a handful of us (3 to 5) serving as “care takers” of sorts. We did nothing, really, but keep in contact with the “rock”, distill our own drinking water, maintain the diesels for electricity and the radio, and wonder if we would ever get out of there! It was a pretty lonely, boring, and very strange place. In early April of 1946 I was evacuated by Navy PT boat back to the rock then on to a hospital in Panama. I read now with interest how this radar station site shortly thereafter became a penal colony with the now infamous “wall of tears”. Above all when looking at pictures of the wall I am moved by how where the wall ends at the foot of a hill(the Radar set was on the summit) is where our barracks was located — a place where we and so many other guys during the war years sat wondering would we ever get away from what one writer called “the end of the world”. When I read about the penal colony it is as though nothing existed in that spot before spring of 1946. What I wonder is this: when visiting the spot is there any trace of those kids from Iowa, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, that before the prisoners came and endured, were there and also endured. Of course, our hardships were not to be compared with those of the inmates. Nonetheless, for kids far, far away from home in a pretty lonely, boring and, as I said before, a very “strange” place. Today Galapagos is a booming tourist attraction but not so then and from anyone who has recently been there I would like to know if there is any sign that “we few” were ever there way back then!

    today its a famous.

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