Lake Titicaca and its communities – a story about status symbols

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A couple of days ago a short trip took us to some small islands in the Titicaca lake. The lake Titicaca is really magnificent – situated at 3800 meters above the sea level one have the feeling of being at the Mediterranean Sea. The surrounding mountains despite of their height of around 6000 meters look rather like regular ones. The lake Titicaca is the second largest in South America.
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We just took the usual touristic route and visited first one of the floating Uros islands which are completely made of reed. You pay entry fee to go on the island, to see how the people live and to learn something about their traditions. As one of our group members said it’s a little bit like visiting the zoo or a circus. Actually it’s sad, but the people do it voluntarily – that’s their choice. However I think tourism is a good profit opportunity for them while they are living aside from the stressful civilization. But they are catching up quite fast with the modern world. The latest invention that reached the Uros Islands is the solar energy. So in the middle of a floating island you have solar panels providing electricity and of course enabling them to watch TV! I am wondering how long is it going to take until they get internet.

Uros women

Uros women

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Our second stop was at the island Taquile. This is a common island at the Peruvian side of the lake around one and a half hours away from Puno with the speed boat. After climbing a few – I think about 200 – steps we reached the middle of the hill where our restaurant was situated. On that height it was really exhausting. But it was worth because of the stunning view over the lake.

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The place where we had lunch was furnished very basic. Although our guide called it a restaurant I would rather describe it as lunch in a private house. A rustic tables with wooden benches were put on the grass and a white canvas was tensed over them as a sunscreen. Really romantic if we were not a group of 30 people.

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The most interesting part of our trip was the explanation of the local customs and traditional dresses that we got from our guide. We visited two different communities on that day – the first were the Uros which actually got mixed with the Aymara people and the second were the Quetchua people. Both communities are still wearing mainly traditional costumes. Within each of the two communities there are specific status symbols that enable everyone to see if a woman or a man is single, married, widowed or even willing to get married.

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The most important piece of cloth is the hat or the cap. Married men wear red caps – the single one white red coloured. The Quetchua women have big black scarfs covering their heads and shoulders. The married ones have black or brown pompons on their scarfs the single ones have colorful pompons. The same tradition with the different colored pompons can be also seen in the traditional costume of the Aymara women. The difference between them and the Quetchuas is that they do not use scarfs but are putting the pompons in their long hair. Quetchua male and female children wear also different coloured caps. Community members with higher social status can even wear a cap and a hat one above the other.P1120923

Quechua People

Quechua People

Status symbols seem to have really long tradition in the human culture even if we do not realize this in Europe nowadays. They changed within time and got more complicated to understand. But if we look closer in different societies we are going to find them. For me as a women one of the most important is the handbag. I am not sure if it is possible at all for someone to refuse status symbols. Actually they are regulated by the community. Driving Porsche compared to driving VW separates two completely different social groups, as also wearing a Birkin bag compared to wearing a bag from Esprit or Zara.

What do you think about status symbols? Are there any particular and interesting in your community?

Mrs. Braeumelova

P.S. As I have some problems with my camera recently the uploaded pictures are not the best 🙁

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