Taquile (Spanish: Isla de Taquile; Quechua: Intika) is an island on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca 45 km offshore from the city of Puno. About 2,200 people live on the island, which is 5.5 by 1.6 kilometres (3.4 by 1.0 mile) in size, with an area of 5.72 km2 (2.21 sq mi). The highest point of the island is 4,050 metres (13,287 feet) above sea level, so climbing to the top left me breathless! The inhabitants, known as Taquileños, speak Puno Quechua and Spanish. There are no cars and I didn’t even see a bicycle! Though, since the ground is so uneven and there are so many stairs, a bike might not be very helpful.
In 2005, “Taquile and Its Textile Art” were honored by being proclaimed “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO. It is the men who do the knitting, however. In fact, in order to marry, a man must make his own hat to prove he can weave and support his family.
Taquileños are known for their fine handwoven textiles and clothing, some of the highest-quality handicrafts in Peru. Knitting is exclusively performed by males, beginning in early boyhood. Women spin wool and use vegetables and minerals to dye the wool to be used by the community, however. Women are also the weavers of the Chumpis, the wide belts with woven designs worn by everyone in the community of Taquile. In preparation for marriage, a woman will weave a belt for her new husband that includes images of all the things they want for their lives together.
Taquileans are also known for having created an innovative, community-controlled sustainable tourism model, offering home stays, transportation, lodging for groups, cultural activities, local guides and restaurants. I’d like to stay a week here and see if I enjoyed the peace or went crazy! Ever since tourism started coming to Taquile in the seventies, the Taquileans slowly lost control over the mass day-tourism operated by non-Taquileans. Taquile community have their own Travel Agency Munay Taquile has been established to regain local control over tourism.
Taquileños run their society based on community collectivism and on the Inca moral code ama sua, ama llulla, ama qhilla, (Quechua for “do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy”). The island is divided into six sectors for crop rotation purposes. The economy is based on fishing, terraced farming (mostly potatos), and tourist-generated income from the approximately 40,000 tourists who visit each year.
The majority of the inhabitants of Taquile are Catholic. They adapted this religion, harmonizing Andean religion with the syncretic Christian culture. The mother earth (Pachamama), the principal Andean deity, directly controls harvesting and fertility; the island is home to four Apus, Andean mountaintop deities. People make several offerings to these deities each year, and they offer three coca leaves prior to each activity or trip. God is present throughout the year in the festivities. The two Catholic churches are in Centre and Huayllano; a Seventh-day Adventist church is located in Huayrapata.
Taquile has a radio station and is equipped with generators. Islanders have elected to use solar panels to generate energy.
Flowers and trees on the Island include Kolle, the tree used to roof the houses and for firewood, the Cantuta flower (the national flower of Peru), the Chukjo (used as detergent), and Muña, used as natural medicines.
As part of my day excursion on Lake Titicaca, Peru, I was honored to see the Floating Islands, a completely new concept to me. To this day, the Uros people maintain and live on these man-made islands, depending on the lake for their survival, and are a large tourist destination. Dragon Boat racing, an old tradition in Puno, the nearest city, is a very popular activity for tourists.
The “Floating Islands” are small man-made islands constructed by the Uros (or Uru) people from layers of cut totora reeds, a thick buoyant reed that grows abundantly in the shallows of Lake Titicaca. The Uros harvest the reeds that naturally grow on the lake’s banks to make the islands by continuously adding reeds to the surface.
According to legend, the Uru people originated in the Amazon and migrated to the area of Lake Titicaca in the pre-Colombian era, where they were oppressed by the local population and were unable to secure land of their own. They built the reed islands, which could be moved into deep water or to different parts of the lake as necessary, for greater safety from their hostile neighbors on land.
Historically, most of the Uros islands were located near the middle of the lake, about 14 km (9 mi) from the shore; however, in 1986, after a major storm devastated the islands, many Uros rebuilt closer to shore. As of 2011, about 1,200 Uros lived on an archipelago of 60 artificial islands, clustering in the western corner of the lake near Puno, Titicaca’s major Peruvian port town. The islands have become one of Peru’s tourist attractions, allowing the Uros to supplement their hunting and fishing by conveying visitors to the islands by motorboat and selling handicrafts.
Additional information, according to Wikipedia: “The Uru’s islands are located at 3810 meters above sea level, and just five kilometers west from Puno port. Around 2,000 descendants of the Uru were counted in the 1997 census, although only a few hundred still live on and maintain the islands; most have moved to the mainland. The Uru also bury their dead on the mainland in special cemeteries.
Food is cooked with fires placed on piles of stones. To relieve themselves, tiny ‘outhouse’ islands are near the main islands. The ground root absorbs the waste.”
Puno is the first city I really had trouble breathing in. But the problem wasn’t air pollution. It’s the altitude. It’s located at 3,830 m (12,556 ft). I woke up at least three times in the night just because I needed more air. Just standing up made me breathless.
Puno is in southeastern Peru, located on the shore of Lake Titicaca. It is the capital city of the Puno Region and Province with a population of approximately 149,064 (2014 estimate). The city was established in 1668 as San Juan Bautista de Puno. Puno has several churches dating back from the colonial period, built to service the Spanish population and evangelize the natives. While most of the area are professed Christians, the pre-conquest ideas about the cosmos still run strong.
But honestly, I can’t tell you much about the city because I only spent the night there. The day was devoted to an excursion on the lake.
According to Wikipedia: “Puno is located at such a high elevation, it experiences more extreme weather conditions than would be expected for its tropical latitude. The average annual temperature is about 8.4 °C and the weather never gets overly warm. During the winter months from June to August, night-time temperatures usually drop well below 0 °C. At this high altitude, the rays of the sun are very strong. Most of the annual precipitation falls during the southern hemisphere summer, with the winter months being very dry.”
Between the visit to the Colca Canyon condors and a late lunch in Chivay, we made a half hour stop at the village of Maca, Peru. It’s small. There’s not much to see there, except their rather impressive old church.
After the Spanish conquered the Colca Valley in the 16th century and grouped its scattered residents into 24 towns (17 of which survive today), the outside world left it alone for another 400 years. The region came to international attention only thanks to a National Geographic expedition led by Robert Shippee and George Johnson, whose 1934 article about it was headlined “A Forgotten Valley of Peru.”
It wasn’t until the 1970s that the area got a major road connecting it to Arequipa, Peru’s second-largest city, 100 miles away. Previously there had been little contact with the rest of the country, with goods transported by mule or slow truck. Today, it’s a stunning four-hour drive from the city, past bare volcanic plateaus and snow-capped peaks. At 13,800 feet, a cafe serves fresh coca tea for altitude sickness. Most of the area is a preserve for vicunas, graceful, long-necked animals related to llamas, which graze on the parched grass near the road. The land becomes greener as you descend into Chivay, the regional capital in the south of the valley.
It’s hard to imagine that the valley once needed such large churches, or so many of them. The roughly 70,000 people who lived here at the time of the Spanish conquest could have filled them, but the structures clearly demonstrated power as much as religion. Initially covered with murals, they grew almost oppressively Baroque as the empire became richer. In the restored church in Maca, for instance, a massive gold altar glints with mirrors. To Inca farmers, the churches must have looked like spaceships.”
I posted earlier about seeing condors, but I also managed to see flamingos, in the high Altiplano of the Peruvian Andes. This was simply a 10 minute bus stop to stretch our legs and get a long distance look at these unusual waterfowl as we drove between Chivay (Colca Canyon) and Puno (Lake Titicaca). I wish I’d had a longer lens, but I really have to limit how much weight I carry–particularly fragile items like camera lens. So, bird photos are just not what I do best.