Lake Titicaca: Vision of Gods
|It is the
highest and most extensive expanse of water in South America, the only navigable lake at
such an altitude. Titicaca (Stone Puma) has lived a long life of millions of years. It
contains the sum of all the ages that have molded and defined the works that humans have
undertaken in the southern Americas. Over this span of time, that reaches back some two
million years, its body of water has been much larger, and encompassed areas today covered
in salt flats and wasteland.
The landscape that shelters
Titicaca and which is one with the lake - which a dazzled Arnold Toynbee described as a
"vision of gods" - is the region of the high plains and vast slopes where the
culture of a cold land and of the potato hold sway, having produced, even today, a visible
center of influence in the entire southern part of the nation.
The perception that the Andean world is born out of Lake
Titicaca comes from the cultures that developed on the altiplano and their contribution to
the growth of other civilizations. Probably the founding couple of the myth did not emerge
from Titicaca, but what did emerge was a cultural world which grew and spread itself out
to wider regions.
On its islands, which are reached by comfortable motor launch, journeying 3 to 5 hours, according to destination, it is striking how the local people use, as in other parts of the country, terrace systems to gain cultivable land on the steep slopes. These far-off and apparently inhospitable places are welcoming and have, on Taquile, Amantaní, Suasi or Soto on the Peruvian side of the lake, the most beautiful spots, that are part of tour circuits known or about to be included in the world of travel and organized trips. On the Peruvian side of Titicaca, tourism is just beginning.
The Enchantment of Taquile
Enriched by a turbulent past, this small island sinks
its roots into the very origins of Inca civilization. And although the Spanish colonization
did impose the heavy burden of serfdom, this did not manage to destroy indigenous values
On the way out of Puno, in the bright clarity of the morning, the traveler boards one of the boats that daily connect the small provincial city to the island. Rocked by the soft movement of the waves, the traveler enjoys the wondrous contrast of colors: the intense blue of the limpid waters mingles and blends with the ochres and greens of an extraordinary carpet of vegetation; the stands of totora reed open before the launch. After some three hours of boating, under a luminous sky, the boat puts in at one of the island's small ports.
On Taquile there are no planes, no trucks, no cars, no motorcycles. It is on foot, following the little pathways of ordered stones, that the visitor allows himself to be infused with this surprising atmosphere that envelops the island. The principal characteristic of the island resides in the fact that it has conserved, across the centuries, a great many of the customs of the old lake population, such as a communitarian life where everything is shared, exceptional handcrafts, and - unique of their kind - dances and traditional music, maintained in all their purity.
To live on Taquile is to penetrate the wonderful union between Earth and Humans, it is to rediscover the unity and balance between things and beings. It is to learn anew how to live. Nature has been equally generous to the island. The native vegetation has been enriched with eucalyptus and cypresses brought from outside in the nineteen-fifties. These species adapted to the climatic conditions of the region. In the waters that surround Taquile grow beds of totora reed, and on the slopes the grass known as ichu, which is used both to feed the sheep and to roof the houses.
By Hernán Cornejo & Christian
Volume II/Issue 10, Page 06
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