Friday, March 2, 2018

Solar Workshops on Taquile

Taquile is nearly 100% Solar Powered
On our first trip to Peru in 1996,
we stayed on Taquile for a week. We learned that the popular way to have electric power--lights and music--was to carry a lead-acid car battery the hour or so hike to the boat, charge it for a day in Puno, and return on the third day for, perhaps, three to four nights of power. We immediately recognized a perfect application for solar energy and brought the first photovoltaic panel in 1988.

Since then, the community has created micro-credit programs to pay for PV systems, individuals have managed to finance them themselves. And even, in 2002, a cultural dance group brought to Washington, D.C., got the Smithsonian to rush around and pay them in solar panels instead of money!
Sam and I used to bring panels, but now solar is available in several stores in local Puno and Juliaca as well as throughout Peru. Now we bring efficient LED lights and charge controllers, USB ports, voltmeters, inverters and various other accessories for the solar PV systems. We also buy equipment in Puno and then trade textiles for the equipment.

Last year, when our Colorado friends, Brad Burritt and Danielle LeCarre of Empowered Energy Systems, came to Taquile, they could see a need for further education, how PV systems here are getting large enough that it is time for some safety and more advanced expertise. So this year, thanks to community funding, advance training came to Taquile.
Asa Burritt speaks Spanish fluently. With Spanish-language teaching materials donated by Solar Energy International, he brilliantly taught a group of Taquileños advanced principles of photovoltaic system theory and design and application. Of course, he had help from his solar expert dad, Brad Burritt.

We held the class at our house, and at least a dozen people attended some or part of the course.

learning to test a solar panel

more testing under charge and use
Juanna was the only woman to attend the advanced course, but she slipped away and missed some important education. Taquile work is strongly gender specific, but we had hoped she would be one of our maestras. Maybe next time.
Meters for testing are important tools.

In the end, four men, German, Silvano, Delfin, and Elias (not pictured)  completed the course and received, not only certificates of recognition, but meters and reference books. Our final course activity was to make a full installation at the home of single mothers. Below is Maria, the happy recipient of a professionally installed solar electric system.

A primary goal of the course was to educate a few maestros, masters of solar technology, who would be the experts whom other Taquileños would call upon to solve their PV problems. These four were introduced in general maintenance classes held in the municipal building. Altogether, about 25 people attended the general class. We had hoped for more, but the word will spread.
After the workshops, Brad and Asa were invited to lavish lunches accompanied by requests to check out various systems. Below, Fredy's two panels are evaluated.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Taquile Carnaval 2018

Carnaval is Color and Movement and Sound.
After a day of rest and recuperation from their flight, plus enjoyment of the Puno Candalaria Festival, the Burritt/Carre family joined us on Taquile Island, where Carnaval is already in progress. We came on the boat on Tuesday, just enough time to prepare for the biggest party day, Wednesday, Feb. 14. In contrast to other Mardi Gras celebrations in the world, Ash Wednesday is the BIGGEST party day of the week. We had a delightful guest, Catarina from Italy, who joined us in dressing up and dancing.
Here Ruperta is helping Asa dress in the complicated clothing.

Women wear multiple skirts, red mantas (large carrying shawls), intricately woven cummerbunds (called a chumpi) with their black head covering (called a chucko) and carrying weechee-weechees, yarn  pufts to twirl in their hands. The men also have red mantas, often with a larger central pattern than the women's, also have the cummerbund chumpis, but wear a full-sleeved colonial-style shirt, black short vest, often have red banderas across their chests, and carry longer weechee-weechees than the women. They also wear multiple coca-purses (chuspas), sometimes as many of 15, carefully set to the same length so the fringe resembles a skirt.
Notice the grasshopper; I've never seen a grasshopper on Taquile.
I wore 5 skirts on Wednesday and found that their weight with dance's hip movements introduced new muscles in my body. I switched to 4 skirts for the rest of the week.
 Each of the 9 dance groups gather in the Plaza after lunch, dressed in their finest, and compete one-group-by-one in front of the autoridades. They also play music and dance in cacaphony, various groups playing at the same time in glorious confusion.

The festival is a progressive party, dancing in procession from one house to another. The leaders of the various groups are officers in the community, invited to various houses by relatives or friends. This culture is very strong on recipocity, so invitations flourish depending on relationship. We danced with two different groups, that of Dario from nearly the far west end of the island, and with Nestor's group. We had plenty of family and friends in both groups and hosted each in our home, one on Thursday and the other on Friday. We bought lake trout to serve our guests.

How it all works: The procession is lead by the youngest and most energetic women, sipas munay, in the brightest skirts. Dario's group had a very large group of these beautiful young women and I joined them most of the time, whooping with the drums and flutes of the men, who follow behind the leader. Trailing the main group are grandmothers and young mothers carrying their babies. The last of the procession is the matriarch, the wife of the group's leader, who gathers up the stragglers and drunks to get to the next location.

When we get to the house, the men leaders sit on a bench and the women sit on sheepskins on the ground opposite them.
Food is served on a beautiful handwoven cloth, an uncuña, usually steamed new potatoes and reconstituted freeze-dried potatoes called chuño, and sometimes corn or fava beans. If fish are included, it is always a treat--and it goes fast. Always a spicy sauce is included, either an onion/tomato/roccotto pepper/lemon mix, or as in the following picture, cooked onions with yellow peppers called aji. Everyone comes forward to pick up handsfull of food.
After the main dish, watermelon is served. One for the women, one for the men, and another for the band. OOPS, NO WATERMELON PICTURE--TO BE ADDED, STAY TUNED.
We dance for awhile in the house; here two little boys manage the drums. 
Beautiful child enjoys the party, too, especially the watermelon.
Waving the weechee-weechee as we exit the house
 With the watermelon comes the beer, shared all around, and then coca is offered and off we dance to the next house.
Cantuta, Taquile's official flower, blesses the foreground of the procession.

Here the procession climbs down the steep stairs toward the Chilcano port--only 2/3 of the famous 500 steps--to Zenon's house.
When we dancers, ahead of the musicians, arrive at a grassy field, we enjoy jumping out onto the soft grass and dancing in a circle until the musicians and the rest of the procession catches up.
Dancing through one of Taquile's stone arches.
Note how the multiiple fringed chuspas resemble a skirt. This man jumped up on the side of the arch, waving his weechee-weechee, cheering the dancers and musicians on to the next house.

Alicia is so beautiful with her bright smile, colorful clothing and happy dancing.
Carnaval started on Monday with six autoridades leading the six groups. Then on Wednesday, the three top officers, the Mayor and two more, started their groups. All danced for the rest of the week, the top officers ending on Saturday evening. 
Sunday evening around 4:30 the remaining groups again head for the plaza. Only this time the young women remove their outer skirts so only the bright (almost day-glo) yellows and greens are all the way round. The men also shed most of their layers. The resulting pairs swing hands in an almost running dance through and around the plaza. Again cacaphony reigns as multiple groups play and dance at once. Fireworks light the air; beer is shared all around. Energy is HIGH!

At last the groups dance off to the house of the authoridad leader, where soup is served and then more beer and then more coca. Sam and I escorted Dario to his house (he was a little drunk); Sam holding Dario's arm and me managing the flashlight. Turns out he lives a mile or two west of the plaza. Once we got there, we were served first, a soup with a nice piece of fish, and welcomed to sit with Dario's godparents who were now in charge. The young people put on the boom box with Cumbia and Reggeton and other all kinds of music. The patio filled with fun dancers. Sam and I showed off our swing dance. Brad and I as well. Asa stayed inside with the beer drinkers and got a new Quechua nickname. The evening was clear skies with bright southern hemisphere stars. We stayed until the planets rose and spent all of Monday resting. Well deserved rest.

Candalaria in Puno, 2018

PunoCapital Folklórica del Perú

The cross-quarter days between the December solstice and the March equinox, in English called Candlemas, groundhog day, or Imbolc, here in Puno is celebrated as Candalaria, a two week festival to honor the Virgin Mary and the folklore of Peru. The statue of the Virgin is carried in procession through the streets. Some claim this is the second largest festival (after Rio de Janerio) in all of South America.

One weekend features more indigenous dances and the second, called Trajes de Luces, features fantastic complicated costumes. For a group of dancers and musicians to participate in the competition, they must have a minimum of 100 members. After competing in the stadium, the dancers pour out into the streets with music and color and overwhelming energy.
Dressed for performance, the dancers welcome photos!

This fellow shows us his mask costume as he prepares to enter the stadium.

Out on the street! Sikuris with panpipes and feathered headdresses.

Twirlling the fringe

Twirling the skirts

Children join the fun and add a large measure of charm.

Skimpy costumes and high heels.

Detailed embroidered applique enhance the costumes.

Three Taquile men, including Evaristo and Elias, were in a band with their tubas.

When the Virgin in paraded through the streets, people shower her with flowers. Flower salespeople fill the streets with their beautiful wares.

 Puno is FULL of people during these weeks. Domestic (Peruvian) tourists dominate, but people come from all over te world. Hotels triple their charges and are full anyway; restaurants are jammed. Vendors and performers come from all over the country.
This gold-painted and costumed woman pretended to be a statue until someome put money in her jar, then performed a little ritual feather dance. Sam was enchanted, and frequently awoke her from her statue-hood with his coins. Then she invited him into the picture.

Monday, February 12, 2018

playing with kids

Beautiful children are the best part of Taquile

We have several children in our immediate extended family, plus many others who have blessed our lives.
Here Erica and Bretta know how to concentrate on their work as they make new chucos for themselves for Carnaval.

But they are also chemists, having made a mixture of shampoo and dish soap to create the perfect bubble blowing solution. A cantuta flower makes an excellent bubble making tool.

Erica knows all the plants and all the trails, and teaches us as much as we can learn: 

Erica and Bretta are hot-shot volleyball players. Sam always carries a ball in his daypack, and we have given them softer, smaller balls that are fun in a small patio setting. We play a cooperation game where we count how many hits we can make before the ball hits the ground. Their little sister, Yaqueline, is getting better all the time, if she can get a hit in with her sisters' multiple volleys. With the three girls and Sam and I, our current record is about 36 hits!

We met these three little girls at the February 2 celebration on the Plaza, together with Catarina (an adventuresome woman from Italy, who was staying at our family's bed and breakfast). The next day  they are walking along the path and we begin a new set of kid friendships.

 Sometimes friendships start just because moms are playing volleyball on a Sunday Sport day at the school, and kids are happy to have someone play ball with just them, giving them fun attention.

 Lisbet is a family member; we have known her mother, Alicia, since she was about 4 years old in 1996. We had a great day at the beach with their little neighbor girl, Estefani. Even the grownups made sand castles and buried each other's feet and legs in the sand. Taquile has several sand beaches and this one is just below the house of Alicia and her husband, Santiago, where they also keep a fishing boat.

 Lisbet's brother, Bryan, and cousin Jhon, also came to the beach that day and all the kids got to climb into the boat.

We did set the fishing net, but only caught a dozen tiny fish. Not enough for a meal. The kids helped untangle and put the net away. 

The path to the beach has a slow-moving stream full of tadpoles! These are all the beach kids of that day:
Beach kids with house in the background

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Weaving for Carnaval

Active weaving for Carnaval
As we walk around Taquile Island these weeks, we hear the click-click-click of a highly polished llama bone against wood.
Women are working hard to create mantas and chuspas (coca purses) in time for next week's Carnaval Celebration.  The bone pounds in the threads of these very fine and tightly woven textiles.
Each thread of the double warp pattern is picked out by hand. Then pounded tightly into place with the llama bone. When Celbia was in the United States in 1988, teaching weaving workshops, one of her students wanted to buy her llama bone and she didn't want to sell it. Finally, when offered a substantial sum, she agreed. It is a very important tool.
Ruperta has a long way to go to finish these coca purses.
Kusi is almost finished.

It's pleasant to weave outdoors under a soft shade
Celbia' house has an easily installed shade cloth over a comfortable grassy area. Kusi, Celbia and Alicia get together to weave and chat.

Even more pleasant to weave together with friends.
Our youg girl friends are making themselves new chucos, the traditional head coverings, carefully pulling threads to create a multicolored border. We interrupt them to play volleyball, but they get right back to work after the break.

Below, Eufrasia finishes a detailed tisno, using her body as her loom. Attached to her waist and her toe, this portable loom is the first lesson of a young girl. Tisnos are traditionally used as straps for coca purses or to tie the chumpi (cummerbund), and now as wrist-ties for tourist souveniers. Sam and I have repurposed them as eyeglasses leashes.