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Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Uros And Their Floating Islands

We celebrate Hispanic culture every October, let us feature the Uros people which unique way of life revolves around self-established floating islands in the Peruvian region and Totora Reeds. The Uros people have pre-dated the Incan empire. Before they were aloft forty or so floating islands on Lake Titicaca in the border of Peru and Bolivia they live on the mainland. 

Uros, Sun People, Floating Islands
Image: Amusing Planet

It is believed that they descended from the Uro Indians. Their hundred-years’ worth tradition was a product of livelihood, slavery, and forced eviction from the expansion of Incas’ territory and subsequently, the colonization of the Spaniards in the 16th century. The Uros people believe that they are the rightful owners of Lake Titicaca and once, they call themselves sons of the sun. Hence, their claim of having black blood because of their resistance to the cold. The story behind the Lake is also quite interesting. 

According to the legends narrated by Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, men and women lived a savaged life. Before there was order, men and women are naked and na├»ve. They resort to eating wild animals and fruits. This concerned the Sun god. The Sun god gave a couple (Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo) to oversee and lead the people to civilization. These people were thought to dress, labor, and worship. The only thing missing is their settlement area. 

Uros, Sun People
Image: Gaviotina

  The Sun god instructed Manco Capac to bring a golden stick that sinks if the promised land is found. After traveling for days, the golden stick finally sunk at Titicaca Lake. This was where civilization was formed. Traditionally, the livelihood of Uros people centered on fishing and hunting. They cook their food on pottery stoves. They also trade with the Aymara people on the mainland which resulted in intermarriage. On the mainland, they also have specialized cemeteries for their dead. 

Nowadays they offer tourists to accompany them (or even stay for a night). They also sell handwoven and handcrafted items made from the same material as their houses and floating islands – Totora reeds. The Totora reeds held together are very sturdy. However, much like any material, they are unsustainable. Every six months, the Uros people must go on shore to refasten, reinforce, and add another layer in their reed boats (balsas).

The Totora reed is also their primary source of medication and nourishment. In particular, the white ends called chullo are eaten for iodine. These can also cure hangovers. The Uros also use these to prepare reed flower tee.  Despite their dwindling numbers, the Uros people does not shy from modernism. They have installed tiles, metal roofs, standard showers, and simple toilets in their reef islands.  Their boats now have motors and solar panels. Their homes have radio and television sets. Christian groups paved the way for their education. Whereas children at their higher years are given the chance to attend Universities at the Peru mainland.

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