Sunday, October 10, 2010

Taquileño Dancers to visit New Mexico and Colorado

Sam and I are excited to host a trio of textile artists from Taquile Island this coming November and December. Our guests include our "son," Silvano Huatta Yucra, Juan Quispe Huatta, and Luz Medy Flores Machaca. They are being brought to this country as part of a dance troupe to help celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the InterAmerican Foundation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With their airline tickets and US visas acquired, we are bringing them to Colorado for an extended stay. Taquile is known for its detailed figured weavings and knitted goods. It was recently declared by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity for its Textile Art.
collected textiles, showing knitted as well as woven work
We will help them sell their textiles at two shows: in Arvada at the Arvada Center's Holiday Art Show on November 26-27, and at the Paonia Holiday Art Show on December 3-4 at the Blue Sage Center. They will demonstrate weaving, knitting and spinning techniques at the shows.
detail of figured weaving
Two public presentations will include a slide show, dancing, textile demonstration and a talk from Juan about the Andean World View and how it relates an experience of nature as expressed in the complex symbols within the textiles of Taquile Culture. The first will be in Aspen at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies at 6:00pm on November 29.

The second in Paonia at the Blue Sage Center on December 6. Doors open with demonstrations and conversation at 6:00, Show begins at 7:00. They will also perform a very short program at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Paonia on December 4.

This visit is a long time dream to bring our Taquile family to visit our own region and home. Those wishing to participate in helping make it happen are welcome to contact us.
Ruperta and Silvano demonstrating weaving and knitting on Taquile

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Going-away party

Sam dances with Elizabeth at our a fabulous going away party our last Sunday on Taquile: Started with volley-ball and watermelon at 3 in the afternoon, followed by a coca-leaf ceremony, dinner, and live music (pan-pipes and drums, guitars and mandolins) with dancing until midnight. WOW!!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Solar panel trade

Grandpa Esteban and Grandma Rosa have never had lights in their house. During our last visit, 2 years ago, we agreed to bring a photovoltaic panel and accessories to trade for their textiles. Part of the trade includes blessing the panel:
We brought many Western guests for this trade: Madrinas Sue and Nancy visiting from the US and two anthropologists studying the effects of tourism in the area, Jakob from Denmark and Sophie from Holland. Jakob and Sophie had another appointment and tried to escape before lunch, but Esteban insisted and then brought Rosa to convince them, apologizing that it was late since their daughter had been sining in the Easter sing until after 2:00am the night before. Sophie said, "I can't refuse." They stayed for lunch, cooked in the old smoky kitchen:
Rosa will have a new LED efficent light in her new kitchen (the chimney is already installed above a beautiful wood cooking area with outside air intake!)

After lunch the Western guests left, and the locals started preparing for the installation, twisting wire and laughing:

We even had another coca leaf ceremony with beer and coca cola:

In the end everyone was happy. We traded a 40 watt PV panel, regulator, battery, 1 florescent tube and 2 excellent LED lights for a black woman's poncho and manta, alpaca and wool, plus a big potato sack and a coca purse--everything handspun and hand woven.
Think: getting your very first light, and the second and third. It doesn't compare to getting your 10th or 50th--it changes your life, makes it easier. No candle flame knocked out by a moth while you cook.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Coca Leaf Ceremonies

The most basic ceremony is simple to share coca leaves: a curi curi we say, open our coca purses called chuspas, pull out a small handful and place them in our friend's chuspa. They usually return the favor. You should never take the coca in your bare hands, but offer your hat, or the tail of your blouse or your chuco. If you MUST take them in your hands, at least blow on your hands to make them sacred before accepting the leaves.

Next level of coca leaf ceremony is to choose within your own chuspa 3 well shaped leaves, called a k'intu, imbue them with your prayers and then bury or burn them. When doing this with a group, you put your leaves together and one person takes them to bury or burn them. More complex would be to open an estalia, or coca-carrying cloth, which would be prepared previously full of leaves. Each person in the group comes forth, makes a cross or 4 direction gesture with their hands over the leaves and chooses their own k'intus, often more than one set of three leaves. Men remove their hats as for a prayer when they choose the leaves.
We did a ceremony like this this afternoon, May 4, on our last day in Lima, with Celbia and Kusi, using a bandana for our estalia. We started with an intention for the ceremony, but each made his/her own prayers: for prosperity for all, for Sam & Tara's safe travels, for solutions of the land border disputes, for health and love. Here in the city, we did our ceremony on a little picnic table under a peach-colored bouganvilla outside a tienda, where we bought a soda pop and offered some to Patchamama as well. At the end of the ceremony, Sam placed the leaves on top of my chuspa and I buried them a couple of inches below a rock in a sweet little flower garden nearby.
On Easter morning, the ceremony is a step more complicated from the simple estalia. Traditionally, every family on Taquile makes a despacho, a paper-wrapped dispach of prayers. Each person's offering is placed on an open piece of paper augmented with flower petals or herbs. Sometimes symbols are offered, such as paper money or a model or drawing of a house. When everyone in the family has chosen leaves, the despacho is finalized with sweets, wine, alcohol and wrapped up to take to the big ceremony on the highest hill on Taquile to give to the Pacos to burn.
You see, Easter is the date for the biggest coca leaf ceremony on Taquile for the whole year, a ceremony to pay the Patcha Mama for the year. We got all dressed up in our finest Taquile clothes and hiked the length of the island to the high point on the north end of Taquile. The rock-fenced enclosure has another interior rock-fenced enclosure where the pacos collected the individual family offerings. We weren't allowed in that inner sanctum, but we were welcome to participate in the group ceremonies. This year we were a bit late after eating our watia, just in time for the after-ceremony drinking party, but Sam and I attended two years ago when we saw more of the ceremonies.

All of the island's officers, or authorities, were gathered at a stone table dressed in full regalia: black trousers, white shirt, black and white vest, red cumberbund, plus multicolored knitted earflap hat under a black felt sombrero and a black short jacket. Many also carried a short staff. Their wives were seated on the ground facing the men. Taquile has two women authorities now, a recent change in the traditional male-only office holders, and they sat with the men in the row behind the table. The table had several rounds of large estalias full of coca leaves. Sometimes the people attending were invited to come up and choose leaves, sometimes only the authorities chose leaves. Sometimes people would go around and generously pass the leaves out among the attendees and then we would pick our own k'intus which would soon be gathered up to add to the offering. Beer was offered all around by the authorities and individuals would offer their alcohol, serving from the bottle cap.

New Age Tourism: A guide in Puno claims to have been called by PachaMama for spiritual tourism. We happened to connect with her group in time to be invited to a ceremony she had planned with a class she and her partner were teaching. The students were tour guides and artists and restaurant/hospedaje owners from all around Lake Titicaca. Her ceremony reminded me of our Colorado Winter Solstice fire ceremony combined with a lake limpia. They kept saying this was a very ancient ceremony, but it seemed strange to me to write one's intentions on paper to put in the fire instead of using coca leaves. Silvano attended a second ceremony from this group a few weeks later and reported that they used coca leaves in a shorter ceremony, which sounded like an improvement. This group participated in a second ceremony in the afternoon, a strong traditional coca leaf ceremony led by a aged Taquile Paco (shaman).

The Paco had two assistants: One would pick out kintus of three coca leaves and hand them to the Paco, who dipped each in wine, called mountain or locale by name one at a time, blew on the kintu and placed it on the pile on top of a large piece of paper. The second assistant would place flowers and a pinch of herbs on top of the leaves. After a while other people called out suggestions of places to include in the naming. I thought of our Colorado mountains and included them in my own offering, but didn't call them aloud. By the time he finished, the coca leaves were a few inches deep! It took an additional large piece of paper to wrap up the pile to complete the despachio.

The paco and his assistants made a couple more despachos, including one bought ready to go from the market, full of candy and paper money, and then built a fire made entirely of dried cow dung, started using alcohol. When it was burning well, they submitted the despachos to burn, also lots of incense. The circle of people gathered around were invited to toss in some powdered incense, which not only smelled great, but made a delightful flare of fire.

Afterward we shared some alcohol and danced to sampoña (pan-pipe flute) music and walked up to the restaurant and house where the visitors were staying. Beer was shared all around and some speeches given. Our friend from many years, Juan Quispe Huatta, became the defacto master of ceremonies, and he invited me to speak. I emphasized that although I love Lake Titicaca and certainly aknowlege the sacredness of this place, we need to remember that Patcha Mama is everywhere, that the whole globe is sacred and deserving of our protection and respect. AND that if they are going to promote Spiritual Tourism, they need to include all of Taquile (and other places around the lake), not just this one restaurant.

Watia, earth-roasted

Watia, the Quechua word for roasting potatoes, oca, and other vegetables in an earth oven

Natalia said, "¿Why don't we make watia?" an Easter tradition. So we did.

First you make a dome of dirt clods, usually in the field where you JUST harvested root crops--potatoes or oca. A strong stone door is useful.

Then you build a fire and feed it until the dirt clods start to glow red hot. Next you rake out most of the ashes and coals and throw in a handful of potatoes. Knock in the dirtclods at the top of the dome and break them up. The soil is very sandy, so easy to break.

Add more potatoes, break up more clods, then begin adding oca. At the last are the haba beans in their pods. Cover the whole pile with dirt to insulate.

The kids made their own small watia and added fresh corn in the husk when it was ready.
After an hour or so, come back and dig it all up. Some potatoes are a bit burned or crispy like potato chips, but mostly the food is perfectly cooked and wonderful. Brush off the sand (Hey! it's sterile!), wrap it in an uncuña (handwoven food-carrying cloth) and gather the family around. We dipped ours in avocado-onion-tomato, fresh piquante salsa, and the traditional salty green clay. Sometimes they make lakeweed (like seaweed) cooked in milk.

When we roast the same vegetables in the solar oven, using no fuel at all, people always say, "Oh, it's just like watia!"

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Family Time

These two good friends are cousins, Natalia age 13 and Juana Luz age 14. Both are our goddaughters, growing up and beautiful.

We brought Cusi a gift, a set of artisan projects, from her godparents Luke and Ellen from Gunnison. In this picture she is concentrating on an arrangement of beads for a bracelet for herself. The candle making kit suggested using a hair dryer to warm and soften the pressed wax so it could be rolled around a wick, but we figured out that body heat would do the trick! We've had fun working together with the projects.

Cusi's little sister, Sarita. On our 2006 trip Sam made a very special relationship with her just as she was learning to walk! Now they are fast friends.

Sam has remade a magic relationship with sweet, shy Cecilia. I did something to make her laugh and slightly cover her face just as I snapped the picture. He admits that these little girls easily steal his heart.

Laundry drying at the rough dock just below our house.My good friend, Nancy Schweiger, eats watermelon here with Eufrasia. Nancy and Sue Pritchett are godmothers to Ivan, Silvano and Ruperta's oldest son. This is their first visit since cutting his hair in the godparent ceremony 7 years ago.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Family on Taquile

Edith, possibly the most delightful 3rd grader on the planet, carrying a load of twigs for firewood and her sister, Juana Luz, after a day of stone fence-building around a field.
Juana Luz wanted her picture taken. If you look very closely, you can see the 20,000 ft. snowcapped peaks in Bolivia across the lake.

The local Friday market, just down the hill from our house, showing school supplies. We bought school supplies for all of our godchildren and some of their siblings (we bought them in Puno: more selection); we're trading woven goods for school supplies for one of the good neighbors.

Cusi, Sarita and Sam--It's a love affair! (Community Trail building in the background.)

First day of Kindergarden for our grandson, Clever--with his beautiful mother, Ruperta.
Walking about the island, we come across groups rehearsing dances in anticipation of anniversary celebration of the Distrito de Amantani, a "county" made up of the islands of Amantani and Taquile. Coming April 8-11, 6 bands and 6 dance troups competing all at the same time in the schoolyard: Cacaphony, excitement, color and costumes. Stay tuned.

Solar Powered Computers at School

Coming to Taquile last week we rode on the bus with a crew of electricians and workers who were coming to Taquile to install a solar/wind powered computer program for the Elementary School. EuroSolar has 27 identical projects for schools in the Department of Puno, including five 170W PV panels, a wind turbine, 24V worth of batteries inverted to the Peruvian standard of 22V, and a water tank with an ultra-violet water purifier on the line, a refrigerator, and 5 laptops plus mouse and keyboard. Very cool.

Here's the project in process. The 6-man crew, plus several Taquileños, finished the installation in 4 days. The ground wires were in long deep pits, covered first with sheep dung before the dirt and rocks. Water in the dung makes a better electrical conductor that just dirt.

Showing the water tank, windmill (they call it a mariposa, or butterfly) and the 850W of PV panels. The trouble with 27 identical projects is that individual issues aren't considered: How will they get the water up into the tank? Climb a ladder with water on their backs after hauling in from the well 100 meters downhill? The Taquileños suggested a pump, not included in the project. They probably will still need to haul the water up the hill before pumping it up to the tank.
Final view of the installation, including the fence. Taquileños had built the control/battery building and the cement foundations for the PV array as well as the water tower in advance of the crew's arrival.

Five Fujitsu Siemens business notebooks, plus keyboard and mouse (so they'll know how to use them when they come to town and use other computers). Satelite internet is promised to come next year.

This is a picture of the PV array which was installed at the high school several years ago. Local parents complain that when the teachers leave they take the key, so no one else can use the computers. I suggested they train someone and make him "president of the computers" (seems that everyone is president of something), if they want to keep it open.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Community Trail Building


Imagine how the Incas made their roads and buildings. What we saw was a panorama of perhaps 800 people, red sweaters and hats against the green fields and grey rock, building 600 meters (think over 6 football fields long) of improved trail about 5 feet wide. Taquile is composed of 6 suyos or neighborhoods (thus the 6 dance troups). In this massive community project, each suyo completed 100 meters of new trail. Men using wedges and big hammers pounded and split the sandstone rock into blocks; the sound is chink, chink, chink of metal on metal. They carried rocks in wheelbarrows and on their backs. Armando had a nice sheepskin to pad his back from the heavy rock. Think two feet by three and six inches thick; I can't guess the weight.

Women sorted gravel and brought it to the trail, carried bags of sand from the beach (a long climb), bags of cement from the boat (the same long climb) and smaller rocks. Very hard work. Very. Sometimes they found sit-down work.

We walked the whole length of the job, greeting and receiving greetings from people we've known for years as we went. We played with some of the children--Cusi and Sarita babysitting their little brother Johel. We carried a few rocks, our token contribution, but then joined in the rock placement work. Just like any rock walkway project (only without the truck to drop off the pallet of flagstone), we worked with Armando to help put the puzzle together of which rock fit where, and chipping or leveling the sand underneath to make a level path. In some places, culverts were made with rock passageways for water to flow underneath. In other places several levels of rock were built up to reduce the dips, level the trail.

On the boat returning to Puno yesterday, we met an engineer from Puno who had consulted on the construction of the trail.

The whole project was done in three days, the authorities walking up and down to pass out coca leaves. It's a beautiful trail, smooth enough to walk upon in the dark without a flashlight, no stairs. I personally grieved some of the beautiful living rock that was split apart to build the trail, but no one else seemed to care, and really, Taquile has a lot of rock.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Solar Cooking Carpenter

A fellow solar cooker, Remegio Arnao.

When we are in Puno, we always seem to find Eduardo, a tour guide who helped us get to the airport during a strike 14 years ago. Today he brought us to visit a carpenter who worked with a French NGO making solar cookers. We rode a combi (van-like bus) up to the highest part of Alto Puno (into a neighborhood of Habitat for Humanity houses) where we met Remigio Arnao, a very skilled carpenter who is constructing the wonderful ULOG solar cookers.

He learned his trade about 10 years ago from David and Ruth Whitfield--our Bolivian friends from Cedesol! She is the one whom I taught to solar cook in 2000, and who has since built over 5,000 cookers with women in Bolivia. This old carpenter was fabulous, and we became instant comrades. He lives alone, and works independently. Today he baked a little cake for himself!

I like the design of the ULOG a lot. The cookers that we've been making have a design flaw in that the glass breaks too easily; on the ULOG the glass is not only protected with a hinged door, it is framed and double with a dead air space between, providing that insulation and thus efficiency. The ULOG is also bigger than the cooker that we've been making, thus better fits into this culture.

I've been wanting to get this ULOG design to Taquile for years, and now we find a local producer. We're going to buy one of his cookers for our family on Taquile. ¡Hooray!

March 24, We buy the cooker
Remigio Arnao and Tara with our newly finished ULOG solar cooker in his workshop.

The ULOG cooker has the distinct design of two panes of glass framed. See the hinges on the bottom? In order to open the cooker, you close the reflector down over the glass and lift up the whole glass and reflector assembly. The advantage is that the glass is carefully protected, and difficult to break. Cool!

Remigio was pleased to see us when we returned today to buy the newly finished cooker. He had cooked a rice dish in the new cooker and said it took 2 hours instead of the 2 1/2 hours that his 9-year-old cooker takes. It seemed to be a trick to catch for the right bus, so we caught a different one and walked quite a ways from the Yanamayo prison to his house. We carried the cooker back into town in a combi, paying for two extra seats.

When Ruperta saw it in our room, she hugged it!

Postscript: Solar Store in Puno
ElectroSol in Bellavista neighborhood sells solar PV panels and parts, thermal hot water systems, and this one style of parabolic solar cooker (done for the day).

We helped Silvano buy a regulator so he could charge batteries with his 85 watt panel.
Silvano's panel was too big for the regulator we had brought, so we bought one at ElectroSol. See the hot water panel and tank behind us.

March 30 update.

Remigio was all out of "placas offset," used offset printer plates, necessary to make his cookers. We found some at a print shop in Puno and brought them to him, ordered additional reflectors to power up the ULOG. They are smaller than the ones he is used to using from Bolivia, but he is creative and thinks he can make the cookers and reflectors just fine. ¡What a guy!

Warm Springs and Geologic wonders

We love taking our family on excursions to places they might otherwise never be able to visit. In this case, two co-mothers, Eufasia and Valeria, and our "daughter" Ruperta, with her son our "grandson," Clever, joined us for exploration, fun and healing. About 3 hours worth of bus rides brought us to this high altitude adventure. We are at 4059 m.s.n.m., or 13,317 feet above sea level.
We stayed in a hotel for two nights, soaked and hiked and enjoyed good food.

We had to hire a car and driver to get to this beautiful canyon of eroded rocks, and curious ruins. After our hike, Walter, the driver, took us on an extra drive down the canyon and took this group shot showing some of the rock formations behind us. We are at 4059 m.s.n.m., or 13,317 feet above sea level.

The curious ruins look a lot like graneries in ancient southwestern USA. A local man told me they are houses of people a long long time ago who were extremely short (about 2 feet tall, to judge by their houses). I'll have to do some research....

Fun in the bubbly warm springs water: Eufraisia, Valeria, Ruperta, Clever y Samuel. It took stong encouragement to get the women loosen their grips on the railing and to allow us to support their heads to float in the mineral-rich water, but they all did it! We all came away feeling relaxed and healed.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Potato Fields in Bloom

¡We took the boat to Taquile on Sunday--at last! Just below our house are several potato fields in full bloom: purple and burgandy and white. I think we arrived just in time for the peak of beauty. It's rainy season, so all the terraces are green and growing. We ate new potatoes and young oca from the fields. AND the night sky is fantastic! It has been clear, the Southern Cross, Mars, the Milky Way: I was up in the night on Sunday after the moon rose. Silver reflection on the lake and then from behind s cloud shaped like a woman. Exquisite.

All of our extended family has come to visit us in the first couple of days, and it has been a time full of love and news. During most of the year, everyone has their own busy lives. When we come, they all get together, so much of the conversation is in Quechua of them catching up on their own news with each other. They tell us how we unite the family.

Monday was the first day of school. Our goddaughter, Natalia, starts her first year of High School this year. We're very proud of her; many of her cousins and even one of her brothers and her sister didn't get past elementary school. The community held a big ceremony: All the officers of Taquile were there in full regalia. They did a coca leaf ceremony, passed soda pop all around to the spectators. Speeches were made in both Quechua and Spanish: One told the students, "Your education is not just for you, not just for the community, but to lift up the whole country." The government has put some money into the school and therefore has stricter requirements for attendance (Taquile students have always been somewhat lax). A few years ago a 20 panel solar array was installed and this year we see the satelite internet connection. I didn't ask if each student gets to have a personal email address!

A few days ago Valeria's cow pulled her off balance, she fell and is in some serious pain, so we told her we wanted to take her to some hot springs. We started plans to go NEXT week, but all of a sudden it seemed best to go right away. That's why you can read this post. We're back in Puno, leaving tomorrow for some wonderful thermal springs north of here. The group is comfortably small, Ruperta, Eufrasia and Valeria, plus Sam and I, and I think 5-yr-old Clever will be coming too. Silvano and Lino have community obligations, though Lino may join us after a day.

One of our most pleasurable experiences here is to take small groups on excusions to places they probably won't be able to afford to visit on their own. Prices in Peru are quite cheap compared to the U.S., so we can afford these marvelous outings. It's great fun to travel with our Taquile family. We can all be tourists together, different than being an ordinary tourist.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Puno and our Taquile family at last!

Beautiful bus ride from Arequipa to Puno. It starts in the dry barren desert and moves high over mountain passes into a wetter zone. We saw cameloids: domestic herds of Alpaca being raised for their wool and wild vicuña-- a delicate, lithe, cinnamon colored animal--exquisite. We saw flamingos in shallow high mountain lakes.

Then at last we arrived in the bus station in Puno to find our family waiting: Silvano and Ruperta are our hijos (children) by virtue of our specific participation in their wedding; Jorge-Ivan (age 10) and Hugo-Clever (are 5) are therefore our grandchildren. How about that!

Saturday is market day in Puno, so we spent the rest of the afternoon buying staples: fresh vegetables and fruits, plus quinoa, oil, etc., and propane for cooking. We'll use their solar cookers when we can, but it is the rainy season and fuel of wood and dung are scarce. We bought enough to share with the extended families. We will all eat well together.

Tourism is very low this year, and this has been their main source of income so finances are tight. They can grow only about half the food they need. In the evening we all went out for chicken dinner, a tradition with us and a treat.

Tomorrow we will go to Taquile to be with the rest of the family and I'll be out of computer connection for a couple of weeks. Perhaps after that I'll be able to post some pictures.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Arequipa, Solar and a bit of tourism

We took the overnight express bus from Lima to Arequipa. The Pan-American Highway out of Lima starts as a many-laned freeway and soon becomes a winding two lane road. Avatar was the featured movie of the evening! Later the full moon lit the landscape we could see when we were awake. In one place, sand had blown over a whole lane in the highway. In early morning light one great sand slide glowed mother-of -pearl. The Peruvian coast is desert, punctuated by great oases wherever flow the big rivers out of the Andes. These fertile areas grow great quantities of food: olives, bananas, melons, squash (I´ve seen leaves 12 inches across!), figs (everywhere right now, must be in season, yum), even grains: rice, corn.

Arequipa is a city of nearly a million people, altitude 2,300 meters or 7,800 feet above sea level. It´s hot. Not as hot as Lima, but we´re sweating. Everyone else seems to put on jackets at night as we are finally comfortable. Our goal here was to try to reconnect with some solar cooks we met several years ago, Patricia Gootee and Geovana Rivera, but we had no luck. This city has close to 360 days of sun every year, so is perfect for solar applications. The street near our hotel is full of shops selling solar hot water equipment. A few stores displayed parabolic solar cookers made in Peru. In our wanderings in the city we see many buildings with solar hot water panels and tanks on the rooftops. They have an advantage here where it never freezes--much simpler installation than in cold climates.

We stay at a sweet little hospedaje with an interior garden. Our hostess is 84 year old Blanca. She took us under her wing two years ago and we find ourselves hugging her and her sons who run the place. She has been sick these last three months; we hope she gets better to visit her in two more years.

Just down from our hotel is the Museo del Arte Contemporania, the only contemporary art museum in all of Peru, according to the curator. My favorite is a ceramic piece in the permanent collection: two 24" (60cm) spheres mounted on a glass and iron stand with a mirror below, stoneware with big glassy melted-out drops and writing all around and around. One is in Spanish, "no es lo que haces no es lo que quieres no es lo que esperes no es lo que no haces ..." and the other in English "no more war no more inequity no more disbelief no more pain no more illusions no more words." Picture below:

We meant to go to Puno today, but a strike in Puno against a big dam project, the Inambari Dam, kept us here being tourists an extra day. Tomorrow for sure we will be in Puno with our Taquile family.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Taquile Youth in Lima

We arrived in Lima Friday night and met Delfin the next morning. Luckily, these young people all have cell phones, so we can connect easily. He shares a room with Alex (who is brother to Maria, wife of Elias); they both have jobs in small motor repair shop. The roof of their apartment is perfect for solar cooking, so we left him an instruction booklet on how to make a box cooker. We´ll see if this young bachelor will go to the trouble to make and use it. Fredy came from his Chicken raising job and spent a whole day with us.

Noemi is happily with her husband, Alejandro, with their fat happy 9-mo-old baby, Alexander (pronounce it in Spanish). All these young adults are ages 24-27, except Noemi´s husband who is 42. We wondered about the age difference, but he is a wonderful father, and they seem happy in love, and his Mother and sisters love Noemi and the baby. We are deeply reassured to see our oldest god-daughter taken care of and happy.

Sunday we took everyone to the big Anthropology Museum. We like taking our family to museums or archeological sites since they probably wouldn´t spend the entry fee or the time to go by themselves--and after all, this is THEIR culture. My favorite piece there is a small sculpture of a deer and her fawn in a lovely tender pose, which I remember from 1988, our last visit to that museum. Noemi was especially taken with the textiles, being a skilled weaver herself.

Monday it was the Museo Amano: this small museum has a beautiful collection of pre-Columbian pottery and a room full of textiles. Entrance is free with an advance appointment required, and every group is guided. The guide remembered us from last year, and after the tour gave me her contact information with an invitation to make a special appointment when we bring our textile-artist family so they can take more time to study the work. Noemi couldn´t be there since she had to work, soI hope her husband will bring here there some day. Delfin and Alex are skilled knitters and spinners, and appreciated the complex fine weaving, more like the work of their mothers and sisters. In particular Delfin noted a "sampler" which contained about 20 different textile techniques in different sections which had been sewn together.

We´ve enjoyed playing with the baby; spent some time in shady parks. Taking everyone out to dinner is always a fun outing. Telling family jokes and stories from our many visits. When my spanish wasn´t so good, I warned Celbia not to choke on bones in the soup, but mixed up "huesos" with "huecos," so she had to stare at her soup to figure out how their could be a "hole" in it! Hard to say goodbye, but Lima is hot now in summertime and we´re looking forward to seeing the rest of the family in the cool highlands of the Altiplano.

We leave Lima tonight (Tuesday Mar 2) for Arequipa by express bus for a brief stop before heading on to Puno and Taquile.

Friday, February 19, 2010

How to visit Taquile Island in Lake Titicaca

Photo: Delfin on the boat dressed in traditional clothing with Taquile Island in the background.

Taquile is incredibly beautiful with terraced fields, views across the blue Titicaca lake water of the Bolivian snow-capped mountains, and skilled fiber art. Plan to stay at least one night. Plan also to buy tejidos (textiles), either from the artisan's cooperative or directly from your host or other family. This weaving is among the best in the world, very fine double warp patterns. Your purchase helps keep the technique and the villagers alive.

From the city of Puno, Peru, ignore all the tour guides (this won't be easy) and catch the turquoise topped communal boat to Taquile Island by going to the Puno Port at 7:30 in the morning. Taquile has the first office on the left as you arrive at the port. Look for the men dressed in traditional Taquile garb: black trousers, white shirt, black vest, red hat, and red or white cummerbund. It's cheaper than the guided tours and more fun because you ride with local people. Recent regulations have denied the Taquile community the control over tourism that they used to have when ALL the boats allowed to dock on the island were communal Taquile boats. The tour boats don't pay the locals anything and are rather unkind about not letting them ride on the boats.

After the 3 1/2 hour boat ride, you arrive on the East side of the island, so avoiding the famous five hundred-stair hike up to "the arch." You'll hike down those stairs for the return boat to Puno. STAY OVERNIGHT IF YOU CAN! Ask to be assigned to a host family. Rooms are basic: clean and with plenty of blankets; currently the community certifies the tourist comfort of the rooms. Bring fresh fruits and vegetables from Puno as a gift to share with your host family; you can buy lunch from them. Note, once you get up he hill you'll be at nearly 13,000 ft or over 3800 m., so be sure to take it easy and drink plenty of fluids.

Although many restaurants have opened in recent years, we recommend the communal restaurant on the east corner of the central square in the pueblo. Families rotate turns running this restaurant; menu is fish and a very flavorful soup.

Background: our first visits to Taquile

In 1986, Sam Brown and Tara Miller traveled in Peru and visited the Lake Titicaca Island of Taquile. Located just outside the Bay of Puno, Taquile is a 3 hour boat ride from Puno. We stayed in the home of Celbia Yucra Huatta and her husband Felipe Huatta Cruz, and learned of Felipe's dream of visiting the U. S.

In 1988, we brought the first small solar electric panel to Taquile, attached the 9 watt panel directly to a radio, the music played--it was a miracle--You could play the radio with the sun! We returned to Colorado with Felipe and Celbia, sold their fine textiles at art fairs and paid ourselves back for their airline tickets. The summer was magical, full of serendipitous meetings with people who recognized the traditional Taquile clothing at the craft fairs or in the streets. Our relationship grew strong. They returned to Taquile with a 40 watt Photovoltaic (PV) panel, so they wouldn't have to carry their batteries to Puno for a 3 day trip to charge them.

Inez and Paolino with children Cecilia & Angel David showing solar part of textiles trade in 2008
Over the next 8 years, we exchanged letters, but were unable to travel to Peru. Finally, in 1996, we returned, and brought the first Solar Cooker to Taquile. We built a dozen cookers that year, introducing this passive solar technology that cooks food without fuel by simply reflecting the sun into an insulated box. We returned again in 1997 to follow up with the solar cookers, building another 20 cookers using local materials. We also brought a few Photovoltaic Panels (PV, or solar electric), to trade for textiles. In the meantime, the Taquile community had created a microcredit program to buy their own PV systems and pay for them over several years. Now at least 80% of the 300 or so families on the island have solar electric--enough for lights and music.

We have returned to Taquile about every other year since then, becoming godparents to four children in four families, playing the role of padrinos at weddings, taking our Taquile family on outings to buy alpaca fleece or to soak in hot springs or to visit archeological ruins. Now in 2010, we return to Peru and Taquile for our 11th visit in 24 years.

I will write whenever I get on the internet to post stories about our trip, and we welcome your comments.
--Tara Miller