Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Presentations in the Pacific Northwest

Pictures and Stories in Washington and Oregon

At the invitation of old friends, Jack and Michelle, on Monday, October 12, Tara Miller and Sam Brown will present an evening of pictures and stories from their nearly 30-year relationship with Taquile Island. The event takes place at the White Salmon Valley Community Library at 77 N.E. Wauna Avenue at 7:00pm.

Then on to Hermiston, Oregon: The event takes place at the Hermiston Senior Center, 435 W Orchard Avenue in Hermiston at On Friday October 16 at 7:00pm. Tara Edna is a Hermiston High School graduate and daughter of Irene Miller. She is pleased to finally share her story in her hometown. On October 16, Sam and Tara will present an evening of pictures and stories, accompanied by a bazaar of Peruvian textiles and a sampling of Miller and Brown’s pottery.
Press Release: 
When they first visited as tourists in 1986, artisan potters Tara Edna Miller and Sam Brown found their social peers among the textile artisans of Taquile Island, Peru. This stony island is located at nearly 13,000 feet above sea level in Lake Titicaca.  In 1988 they introduced the first solar electric panel and now, not only does just about every one of the approximately 300 households have electricity for lights and music, most of them have gravity-fed running water from community solar water pumping systems. Miller and Brown continue to bring solar technology products, which they trade for the finely made textiles and sell in the U.S. to pay for the project.

Over the last three decades, they have hosted Peruvians in their home in Colorado two times, visited Taquile 14 times, become godparents to 5 children as well as become ceremonial parents and thence grandparents. It has been a long time since they’ve been tourists.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mountaintop and Other Scenes

The ceremonial site of Mulcina 
is the highest point on Taquile.
It corresponds to the Apu Karu of Lachon, Capachica Penninsula and the Patcha Tata heights of the Island of Amantani. Sam made it an almost daily practice to hike to the top, a physical and spiritual exercise.
Trail to Mulcina
approaching the walled ceremonial site
ceremonial fenced area at Mulcina
The 360 degree view from the top included the snow-capped mountains in the distance on the north and east sides of the lake, when the cloud cover lifted.

Cordierra Real in Bolivia
 The trail to Mulcina passes mossy rocks; in these are growing the delightful muña, a mint family shrub which we enjoy as an herbal tea.

 Ruins with flat large roof stone partly fallen into a shaded, mossy room.

 Another fine excursion is to the beach. The water here is somewhat shallow and protected, so swimming is cold but possible. The sand is delicious for play. Taquile has more than one beach, but this is the biggest with the best sand:
Beach view from above
One day Sam and Tara with Clever and Ivan spent an afternoon playing in the sand.
Ivan taught us to pour water into dry sand to make a temporary bowl sculpture.
 Clever and Sam engineer channels of water and sand.
Beach engineers

Friday, March 13, 2015

Turning the Earth

Agricultural rhythms on Taquile Island

The citizens of Taquile Island practice a 6 year crop rotation cycle: The first year are potatoes, the second, oca, a sweet delicious tuber in the oxalis family, and the third fava beans and sometimes corn and quinoa. The next three years are fallow, with sheep grazing which fertilizes the soil. When a field is ready to return from fallow to crops, the people dig up the grass near the end of the rainy season to recover over the winter.
Oca in the sun
Before cooking, oca is left in the sun for a day, which makes it sweeter!
Oca in flower
When people ask, "What do you DO for two months on Taquile?" we tell them we do what they do. In this case, prepare a field for the next planting season, voltear tierra, or turn the earth/the soil. Withe the strong tradition of reciprocity, or--in Quechua--ayni, within the Taquile culture, several men joined us to dig with the traditional foot hoe. The women worked to remove rocks from the field. This particular field was deep, rich sand-humus soil, very few rocks. I want to mix it up with my Colorado clay soil.
many hands make light work
Little Lisbet and Brayan have a good time in the dirt clods.
Children have fun while men dig

Friday, February 27, 2015

Carnaval Taquile 2015

Carnaval on Taquile is a week-long Celebration

Silvano cheers us on
It's Marti Gras, but doesn't end on Tuesday night, as in New Orleans. Rather, Ash Wednesday is the BIGGEST party day. This year nine leaders who hold various community offices lead each of nine groups in a progressive dancing party from house to house. This was our fourth Taquile Carnaval over the 29 years that we have been visiting Taquile Island.

We started on Monday. Our co-father and co-mother, Gonzalo and Pelajia, are padrinos to one of the leaders, Moises. The Yucras are a large family, so Moises was invited by LOTS of households to party at their houses, so we progressed through eleven houses on Monday. Too many. Later in the week we danced with Ruperta's father, Florentino, and his group only went to 5 houses. This gave us more time to dance at each house, and to drink our beer more slowly.

This is how it goes:
The first house of the morning usually has soup; after Monday's beginning, this was also the "overnight" house, the last night of the previous evening, set up with rooms for people to sleep if they want. We don't always make it for soup, since we have come home to sleep and have our own breakfast. A desultory beginning includes bursts of drums and flutes as the host group waits for more participants to arrive; waits for the morning rain to stop.
After food, then WATERMELON. Prayer over the watermelon and three watermelon are cut: one by the men, one the women and one the band. Nice and juicy. Then more BEER, then the band starts and women start dancing. Three coca estallias are opened and blessed and hands full of leaves passed out to all the adults. Closing the estallias is the signal to get ready to dance on to the next house.

Coca estallias, nearly empty
Women in twirling skirts lead the procession
The progessive music is repetitive, a strong base drum with accompanying snare drums and harmonic flutes (q'enas). It consists of four phrases, 8 counts each, and on the fourth the dancers twirl. The procession is lead by the women with their colorful many layers of skirts, intricately patterned red chumpi (cummerbund) and manta (shawl), and activily twirling yarn wiichi whiichies. The men follow, ususally with the group leader close behind the women. They wear chumpis as well, plus a black short jacket, red bands across their chests, and some have red ponchos, also intricately woven. All of them have multiple chuspas (coca purses), some as many as 12 or 15 chuspas, all intricately woven patterns, red, and with lots of colorful fringe. The chuspas circle their hips like a skirt and fly out when they twirl (see Silvano in the photo, top of this entry). Most of the men also have wiichi whiichies, longer and with heavier balls than the women's yarn puffs.
intricate weaving

Sam gets a shade hat
in procession through an arch
This dance went briefly through a steep eucalyptus forest
When we arrive at the next house, I seek out the hostess and give her coca leaves. She is busy rushing around getting blankets down on the bench for the authority men to sit on, blankets in front of that bench on the ground for the authority women to sit on, another blanket between them for the food, and finally the food: fiabre, picnic food. Usually a huge pile of cooked dried corn and fava beans, peeled boiled potatoes, sometimes mixed with tiny fish called ispi, or sometimes trout. Always a bowl of hot sauce. Each house has its own salsa, generaly fresh chopped onions, tomatoes and rocoto chilies with lime. Sometimes avocado or tuna fish. One house had a cooked onion dip that was delicious. I carry a little plastic bag to use as a plate, so I can grab my food and sit quietly. After a while, no one is eating any more and women gather up the left overs to take home, either in a plastic bad or their tightly woven wool uncuñas, food carrying cloths.
Young Clever plays the big base drum
Wednesday was the big day in the Plaza, with competition among the nine groups.
Biggest celebration is Wednesday in the plaza

Goddaughter, Natalia, with Sam

Sam and Felipe

beautiful Cecilia with Sam
Tara and Sam
More dancing from house to house. We hosted groups at Eufrasia's house on both Thursday and Friday, with lots of advance cooking and beer buying.
Sam plays ball with the kids while grownups drink beer

Sunday night was one more big extravaganza blow-out in the Plaza. Several groups changed clothes so all the women were twirling in day-glow yellow skirts. Some groups of men wore all white. It was sunset, so the glow was powerful. Fireworks as well.
I have videos from Sunday night--and from the processions as well, but didn't manage to download them--stay tuned!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Rest and Recuperation


We take a break from family fun for some internet time and hot springs in the city of Sicuani, about half way between Puno and Cusco. We find a very quiet comfortable hotel, highly recommended: La Posada Hostal, on a short street with no cars, in a room overlooking a pedestrian bridge.

We walk around town, hike on the hills above the city, soak in the hot springs a few miles south, visit the ruins of Raqchi a few miles north, eat rocoto relleno and drink chicha and generally indulge ourselves.

We see not one other tourist in 4 days; a woman stops me in the market to compliment my hair, white and curly above my visor.

The bus station murals welcome you

Ruins of Raqchi-Temple of Wiracocha

Hike above the city reveals snow capped peaks

Sicuani city view

cool towers, eroded rock


 Sign in the central market:
Use less Plastic Bags
Chili (Rocoto) relleno meal with chica


Family homestay in Llachon

A Family Homestay on the Capachica Peninsula

Asunta and Armando, with their beautiful children, have created a sweet place to stay out near the point of the Capachica Peninsula of Lake Titicaca. Munay Vista Lachon

Guide service available: Armando grew up in Lachon and knows the place well. In addition, he took a Local Guide course so is well qualified to guide visitors.

Comfortable Rooms: Two tourist rooms are available, one with a double bed plus a single bed, and the other with a double bed. Also, neighbors have rooms if your group is bigger. All have private bathrooms with flush toilets and solar hot water for showers.

Views: The dining room has a panoramic view of Lake Titicaca, with Taquile Island to the left, the totora-reed bird habitat in the middle and the lights of the city of Puno far to the right. The sandy beach is great fun for games and sand castles.

View from the dining room

Walking trails give a view of the charming center of town

Llachon view

Pre-Incan structures--and family fun!

convenient table in the room

Single and Double beds
Solar heated shower and flush toilet

Kusi, Sarita and Jhoel in the dining room

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Blessing of the First Seeds

Llachon (with an accent on that "o"), is the last town on the end of the Capachica Peninsula.

We were honored by being included in the annual Blessing of the First Seeds Ritual. We are staying at the home of Asunta and Armando. Asunta is the big sister of our oldest goddaughter, Noemi, and is married to Armando who grew up her in Llachon. We borrowed traditional clothing. This is my outfit all set out on the bed:  montera or shade hat, jacket, chuco or head covering, and skirt.

The day starts with a procession from the plaza up to the furthest high point on the Capachica Peninsula, known as Apu Karu, or by an older title, Auki Karu. Leading the procession are three men carrying incense censers. They are followed by the village officers or authoridades and their wives, three shaman or pacos, the band, and then the rest of us. Sam and I filed in among the authoridades, giving them coca as Armando instructed us. I had given Armando our camera and we had permission to take pictures, so most of these photos are his work.

incense censer
The procession stopped several times to rest, giving us time to become more aquainted with others, to share coca and take up some of the weight that needed carried to the top of the mountain.
giving coca to the authoridades
We were given white flags to carry in the procession. About 45 people walked in the procession, but by the middle of the ritual over 200 people were present.
Sam looks dapper in his Indiana Jones hat, yes?
Our first ritual stop was at the cross at the top of the hill, blessing/smudging with the incense. Sam and I were both invited to swing the censer in front of the cross.
Then up the the sacred stone circle, a walled room where the ritual will take place:
First speeches and we pass before the authoridades and their wives, greeting--and being greeted in return--with hats in hand, "Que sea buen misa," or "May it be a good mass."
note Sam on the left
The stones that block the doorway to the sacred circle were removed and first in were the incense censers. Each of the authoridades swung the censer around the center stone table in blessing/smudging and the censer was handed to Sam. He also blessed the stone. I held back, thinking that we might be overstepping our welcome, but I was called forth to perform the rite. We were the only ones besides the central authoridades and their wives who performed this rite. I felt very honored.

Shortly afterward, coca was passed around and everyone got in line to bring our prayerful chosen coca leaves (known as a kint'u) to give to the pacos which they added to a despacho, a paper-lined collection of flowers and wine and incense. The pacos were focused and attentive to each person, to each collection of prayer-laden leaves. People have come from all over the region to present their prayers for health and good crops.

They also bring the new potatoes, samples of their first crops of oca, quinoa, fava beans, corn. These First Seeds are placed on the round stone table/altar in the center of the circle.
First seeds being blessed
Candles are lit and offered.

holding our candles
We take a little break in the middle of the day, as the long line of people are still in line ofering their kint'us. Asunta has brought lunch, knowing that the community food would be delayed. Armando takes our picture with Taquile in the background.
All dressed up!
Then the dancing starts! Three times around the outside of the stone walled circle, then three or more time around the center round table with the seeds. We spill wine on the seeds and pour it down each other's throats. Four dancers are supposed to represent four kinds of potatoes, but I don't know which ones--then suddenly they tell me that I am the White Potato (with my pale skin and white hair). It is great fun. I pause for Armando to take my picture:
The White Potato dances around the seeds
Those who brought their first fruits mix what was brought and take it away. Ceremonial objects in a cache under the altar are attended to and the cache is sealed. The pacos light three fires for each of the three despachos, which they burn, tending the fires until they are pure ash.
The sacred space under the table is sealed
We leave the sacred circle and gather for a community lunch. Steamed food is placed on clean cloths on the ground, as is the common way to make a picnic here. Sam and I are invited to sit with the authoridades. Again, I am amazed at the honors given to us.
Finally the doorways are sealed with rocks, The attendees have already begun to find their own way down the hill. We wait and complete the ceremony by joining the procession down, as we did this morning for the procession up. Armando gives me back the camera and climbs up to remove the Peruvan Flag and the White Flag that he placed next to the cross this morning. Sam carries the Peruvian flag down.
Armando climbs up to take down the flags
The next week is to be dedicated to blessing individual fields.
We visit all of Armando and Asunta's fields over the next two days, decorating with flower petals and colorful paper strands and sprinkling wine.
Sam, Asunta, Jhoel, Tara, Kusi, Sarita
Flowers in the air

Tara sprinkles wine on the potato field.

A thatch-roofed shelter near our high altitude field

Ancient Chulpa above Llachon