La isla Tequile

There I sat at the highest point of the island overlooking the icy blue water. I could see Bolivia in the distance, accompanied by a sky full of clouds preparing for the sun to set. This was like nothing I had ever seen before. The air was bitterly cold, but I felt warm inside as I closed my eyes, and in the distance I could hear conversations in a language I did not understand; the language of the indigenous people. This language was Quechua, and it was beautiful.

This weekend I had the amazing experience of visiting the Island of Tequile located on Lago Titicaca, the largest navigable body of water in the world! After a 7-hour bus ride from Cuzco to Puno and a 3-hour boat ride, surpassing the floating islands, we arrived at our destination- an island of which 2,000 indigenous people inhabit.

There are no vehicles on this island, only stone pathways built for endurance. There are fields of corn, quinoa, vegetables, etc. of which each family plants and harvests. At the age of 3, children are taught the art of their culture, of which thousands of people flock to see and purchase every year. Most interestingly, there are no police on the island; they are not needed. There is a strong sense of community, therefore people work together to keep the island going. Authorities, usually elders, deal with any problems, which I have been told has resulted in the extermination of persons from the island. It was the most utopian-like society I have ever seen- in reality.

I stayed in a small room with a family from the island. They had no running water, heating came in the form of blankets, and time was passed sitting amongst the clouds knitting and weaving. Their home reminded me of the reservation, especially awaking in the middle of the night dreading the dark walk to the outhouse. I didn’t realize how much I missed home until I was sitting at a wooden table sipping hot mate de muña, which was picked right outside the house. Seeing people who did not complain about the amenities they lacked, but instead lived happily in the warmth of their culture, was a timely reminder of how truly beautiful life can be.

The night was dark, and the island lit only by the moon, which hovered closely. I awoke early in the morning to accompany Papa and his two daughters to their field of corn. Another hike up the island, which I did not mind as the sun had come out. Once we arrived at their lot, we picked corn of which we would cook for lunch. I could see other families in their fields taking what they needed for lunch. This life was so calm. Only what was needed was taken from the earth, and nothing more-as it should be.

In the afternoon we visited the beach. The water was calm, life-giving, and endless. I was in a different world. A world untouched by the corruption of green paper and black liquid. I couldn’t help but wonder what life would be like if the entire world respected land and culture this much. What if the indigenous people of every region could teach the rest of society how to live? We’d all be much healthier, happier, and purposeful. I loved everything about this small island. Living in isolation does not always have to be difficult; it can be rejuvenating. Of course a lifestyle like this can only be lived by people who can handle it. Which time and time again will always be the indigenous people of the land.

It was amazing to see how well the Natives have maintained their culture, and way of living. I thank the people of the island for allowing me to learn about their culture, and the family who took me into their home, told me stories, and fed me well. My trip was too short, but one day I hope to return. Until then, I will always remember the mesmerizing nature walks, the resiliency of the people, and the simple, yet sufficient way of living. Whenever I see deep blue water, I will think of the beautiful island of Taquile.



Published by Shandiin Herrera

Diné, Duke University Alumna, Lead for America Hometown Fellow

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