Friday, February 19, 2010

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

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