Puno. Aug. 22 (ANDINA). In a recent article at mydesert.com. Ohio native Maggie Downs describes life and customs in Taquile. a small island located 36 kilometers east of the city of Puno. southeastern Peru.
'Come.' said Thomas. leading us down crumbling stone paths into unknown territory.
My friend Deborah and I were going to stay for the night with Thomas — even though until that very moment. he had been a perfect stranger to us.
We were on Taquile. one of the islands on the Peru side of Lake Titicaca. Each populated island functions almost as an autonomous country. with its own rules. governing body and culture.
Taquile is particularly intriguing in that they have just three laws: Don't lie. don't steal and don't be lazy.
The island has no police. no prison and no dogs. which are seen as a symbol of security. They also do not have cars or electricity.
What they do have are the most delicate. beautiful handicrafts. recognized by UNESCO as the best in South America.
The women of Taquile make the wool. which is dyed vivid colors using local materials. while the men are the knitters.
Boys learn to knit at a very young age. around 6 or 7. and their skill eventually becomes a sign of masculinity. For instance. when a couple intends to marry. the woman takes her love interest's hat and fills it with water. The longer it takes for the water to leak through. the tighter the knit and the better the man.
Once they agree to marry. the woman then cuts off most of her long hair. which is then woven into a thick belt with heavy wool. The stiff belts are about 8 to 10 inches high and wrap around the man's waist a couple of times.
The belt serves two purposes: It's a symbol to others that he is now off the market. It's also a way to protect the lower back — according to those on the island. married men carry more burdens than single ones.
Tourists mostly come for the knitted goods. which are displayed around the main plaza. There is no haggling at their markets — everything is a fixed price — and each piece says which family made it. so the money goes directly to them.
Though the island has tried to keep their traditional ways despite an influx of visitors. there are definite signs that tourism has affected the people.
For instance. a small boy followed me around. chanting 'Photo. photo.' I thought he simply wanted to see his image on the digital display. so I stopped and snapped a quick shot. The boy then stuck out his hand and asked for money in exchange for taking his picture.