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The Uros People of Lake Titicaca

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The legend of the islands says that the full-blooded Uros had black blood that protected them from the freezing temperatures on the water and also from drowning. Uros tribe fled from the enemies into the lake. This was their last retreat, and that's how they survived.They call themselves be kot-suña, or people of the lake, and consider themselves the owners of the lake and its waters. Today, they continue living by fishing, weaving and now, tourism.

Where We Live:

Lake Titicaca is between Peru and Bolivia. Peru and Bolivia are in South America.
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Lake Titicaca is a
lake
located on the border of Peru and Bolivia. It sits 3,811 m (12,500 ft) above sea level, making it the highest commercially navigable lake in the world.
By volume of water, it is also the largest lake in
South America.


Myth and Mystery:

According to Incan lore, after a great flood, the god Viracocha arose from Lake Titicaca to create the world. He commanded the sun (Inti), moon (Mama Kilya) and stars to rise, then went to Tiahuanaco to create the first human beings, Mallku Kapac and Mama Ocllo. These first humans, the "Inca Adam and Eve," were formed from stone and brought to life by Viracocha, who commanded them to go out and populate the world. Thus Lake Titicaca is the birthplace of the Incas, whose spirits return to their origin in the lake upon death.

Background Information in Powerpoint and Video


Click on the Peru_Titicaca.pps and then click OPEN. This may take a moment, so be patient.



Pay close attention to the video. There is a lot of information on the people, their culture and their beliefs. You may want to watch it a few times.



Lifestyle:

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Two Boys Going to School

The larger islands house about ten families, while smaller ones, only about thirty meters wide, house only two or three.
The islets are made of totora reeds, which grow in the lake. The dense roots that the plants develop and interweave form a natural layer called Khili (about one to two meters thick) that support the islands. They are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top constantly, about every three months; this is what it makes exciting for tourists when walking on the island. This is especially important in the rainy season when the reeds rot much faster. The islands last about thirty years.
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Each step on an island sinks about 2-4" depending on the density of the ground underfoot. As the reeds dry, they break up more and more as they are walked upon. As the reed breaks up and moisture gets to it, it rots, and a new layer has to be added to it. It is a lot of work to maintain the islands. Because the people living there are so infiltrated with tourists now, they have less time to maintain everything, so they have to work even harder in order to keep up with the tourists and with the maintenance of their island. Tourism provides financial opportunities for the natives, while simultaneously challenging their traditional lifestyle.

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Much of the Uros' diet and medicine also revolve around these totora reeds. When a reed is pulled, the white bottom is often eaten for iodine. This prevents goiter. This white part of the reed is called the chullo (Aymara
[tʃʼuʎo]).

Like the Andean people of Peru rely on the Coca Leaf for relief from a harsh climate and hunger, the Uros rely on the Totora reeds in the same way. When in pain, the reed is wrapped around the place in pain to absorb it. Also if it is hot outside, they roll the white part of the reed in their hands and split it open, placing the reed on their forehead. In this stage, it is very cool to the touch. The white part of the reed is also used to help ease alcohol-related hangovers. It is a primary source of food. They also make a reed flower tea.

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Local residents fish ispi, carachi and catfish. Trout was introduced to the lake from Canada in 1940, and kingfish was introduced from Argentina. Uros also hunt birds such as seagulls, ducks and flamingos, and graze their cattle on the islets. They also run crafts stalls aimed at the numerous tourists who land on ten of the islands each year. They barter totora reeds on the mainland in Puno to get products they need, such as quinoa and other foods.
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.
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Uros Crafts:

Uros Girl Weaving



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Crafts made from Totora Reeds
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Uros Women Singing: