July 4, 2008 (continued)
Our next destination on Lake Titicaca was Taquile Island. We got there by motorboat, after our visit to the Uros Islands. Taquile is quite a contrast to Uros – first of all, it’s a real island, not floating, and it is quite rocky and steep. The people on Taquile speak Quechua, in contrast to the Uros, who adopted the Aymara language centuries ago. Women do laundry on the rocky shore of Taquile Island, and drape the clothes on rocks to dry.
I noticed that there are a lot of sheep on Taquile – it makes sense, since the islanders are noted for their fine textiles. The children have a particular style of dress – we saw boys with white shirts and black pants, wearing woven hats that extended down their backs, mostly red. These hats signify a young unmarried man. Girls tended to wear black skirts and bright colored tops – red, pink, etc. Their heads were covered with black shawls.These modes of dress are indicative of the Taquileños’ desire to maintain their culture and traditional ways of life, as well as control over their commerce.
A little girl in native dress. The black shawls over their heads reminded me of traditional women in Spain’s past.
The young boys wear red and white wool hats, and mostly black pants and white shirts. Notice that one boy is knitting. This activity is performed exclusively by males, starting at about age 8. Making yarn and weaving, in turn, is performed by women only.
We climbed and walked for quite awhile before we arrived at the place where we were having lunch. The people in the village served us a delicious meal, and put on a show of dances and a lesson about how wool is cleaned and made ready for weaving.
We are tired and ready for lunch! A traditional meal is vegetable soup, fish with rice, and a tomato and onion salad. They grow their own crops on the island and divide the land into 6 sectors, or “suyus” for crop rotation purposes. They grow potatoes, barley and beans on hillside terraces, and also engage in fishing. Their economy is based on these products as well as tourism.
A man knitting. A beautiful completed hat next to him (gray and white) is very similar in design to the blue and white hat I later bought. Note also that the hat he wears is the style married men wear.
Jayme with a traditional “single guy” hat!
The Taquileños produce beautiful woven hats, vests, mittens, etc. I found these to be rather pricey, although they are well-made. I ended up buying a beautiful light blue and white hat and two vests.
At the very top of the island is a village, where we were led to a factory with the reputation for very finely made items, like hats, vests, etc. This is actually where I purchased my hat and the vests. This is the main village, located at 3,950 meters above sea level. The island itself is 5.72 square meters in size, with its highest point at 4,050 meters. It is home to about 2,200 people. Taquile Island is about 45 km offshore from the city of Puno.
Taquileños have a society based on community collectivism, as well as on the Inca moral code ama sua, ama llulla, ama qhilla, (“do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy” in the Quechua language). However, most Taquileños are Catholic, blending its religious traditions with those of their ancient culture. There are two Catholic churches on the island, and one Adventist church.
Taquileños also have a community-based tourist system. Because of the increase in tourism in recent years (numbering about 40,000 per year), large tourist agencies have encroached upon their system. However, they offer home stays, transportation, lodging for groups, cultural activities, local guides and restaurants. The community has established its own tourist agency, Munay Taquile.
We continued our hike, traversing the entire island, admiring the beautiful scenery. At the far end of the lake, we descended once more, where the boat to take us back to the mainland was waiting for us.
Finally, we stopped again – at another tourist shop! Here we had the opportunity to admire and purchase items made of reeds, as mementos of our visit to the Uros Islands.
NEXT: PUNO AND SILLUSTANI