A Short Story about Titicaca

Every morning Alejandra wakes up just before dawn. She begins weaving coloured wool and prepares the “mate” made of muna. These are the ritual actions of this woman of unknown age, an ancient perpetual motion that harks back to a past time, the actions of fathers and mothers of another generation, a world that has disappeared. Other women, sisters and daughters are beside her. Seated in a circle they gaze at the rising sun, smile at the sky and their men. Meanwhile Javier, Segundino and Fernando are weaving blocks out of totora reed, a plant that grows wild and which they use as the ground for their islands thanks to its floating properties, to construct the huts where they live and boats. Their faces are sun-beaten, marked with long wrinkles, their hands covered in calluses, from work, from toil.

We are on the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, at an altitude of 3856 metres above sea level, in the land of Peru on the border with Bolivia. Its shores and the small islands of Amantani and Taquile are still home to the descendants of the Uros, a population that fled from the Inca invasions and which has lived since then on these artificial islands joined together with connections on which they can walk, thus forming a large archipelago of woven reed islands. They are simple people, these men and women who even now in the third millennium spend their lives to ensure land on which to walk, fish and plant potatoes, maize and quinoa.

Alejandra, Segundino and their daughter Leysy live in a hut very much the same as those of all the other families. Carpets and different colours are the only distinguishing features. There, right on that patch of the world and the end of the land, without drinking water, small solar panel modules have made their appearance in front of every rudimentary dwelling. At dawn and dusk, after centuries of darkness, even the Uros have abandoned their candles. Finally they can switch on a lamp, recharge a mobile phone to connect with the rest of the planet, even listen to a radio and watch television. Those poles in front of the homes of Javier and Fernando, are like a flagstaff, where the panels that reflect the colour of the sky, represent emergence from darkness, from the shadows of history, although without betraying the traditions and culture of centuries. 

Fabio Cavallari