In the early morning before I left Puno, I had the pleasure to visit one of the most amazing micro societies in the world. Human ingenuity is truly limitless. If there is a problem in nature we can solve it, as a group we just need to set the proper parameters and work towards it.
The Uros people have done this, and for thousands of years have made a habitat out of material and land that is not land! All one needs to do to see that anything is possible is to look at the floating islands on Lake Titicaca and be inspired. This is a call to all architects and structural designers, forget the great pyramids, temples, and columned buildings, go see these islands, and let your mind run wild!
To get out to the islands I hired a tour company to boat me out. I never like to take tours as they are only for tourist, but sometimes when time-crunched it is the only practical way to see the area of interest. At day break a bus picked me up from the hotel and drove us to the wharf at Puno on Lake Titicaca. We had a briefing about where we were about to go, and what basic educate was. We learned a little history of who the people of the floating islands were and how they came to live in such a unique way. We learned that these floating islands are the home of the Uros tribe, one which pre-dates the Incan civilization. According to their legends, they existed before the sun, when the earth was still dark and cold. They were impervious to drowning or being struck by lightning. They lost their status as super beings when they disobeyed universal order and mixed with humans, making them susceptible to contempt. They scattered, losing their identity, language, and customs. They became the Uro-Aymaras, and now speak Aymara. Because of their simple and precarious lifestyle, the Incas thought them worth little and accordingly taxed them very little. Yet the Uros, with their basic reed homes outlasted the mighty Incas with their huge stone temples and mountain-top enclaves. The islands are made and re-made from the totora reeds which provide home, sustenance and transportation for their residents.
This is the mayor of the island. With a population of about 5 I’m guessing it was a heated election. He showed us how they construct the islands and boats, and explained the general societal structure and relations with the other islands. Each island is like a little community which is part of the larger society of islands.