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Isla de los Uros

Peru is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. The Peruvian territory was home to the Norte Chico civilization, one of the oldest in the world, and to the Inca Empire, the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century and established a Viceroyalty, which included most of its South American colonies. After achieving independence in 1821, Peru has undergone periods of political unrest and fiscal crisis as well as periods of stability and economic upswing.

 

Peru is a representative democratic republic divided into 25 regions. Its geography varies from the arid plains of the Pacific coast to the peaks of the Andes mountains and the tropical forests of the Amazon Basin. It is a developing country with a medium Human Development Index score and a poverty level around 45%. Its main economic activities include agriculture, fishing, mining, and manufacturing of products such as textiles.

 

The Peruvian population, estimated at 28 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians. The main spoken language is Spanish, although a significant number of Peruvians speak Quechua and other native languages. This mixture of cultural traditions has resulted in a wide diversity of expressions in fields such as art, cuisine, literature, and music.

 

The word Peru is derived from Birú, the name of a local ruler who lived near the Bay of San Miguel, Panama, in the early 16th century.

The tribal leader trying to kill our tour guide
When his possessions were visited by Spanish explorers in 1522, they were the southernmost part of the New World yet known to Europeans. Thus, when Francisco Pizarro explored the regions farther south, they came to be designated Birú or Peru. The Spanish Crown gave the name legal status with the 1529 Capitulación de Toledo, which designated the newly encountered Inca Empire as the province of Peru. Under Spanish rule, the country adopted the denomination Viceroyalty of Peru, which became Republic of Peru after independence.

 

The earliest evidence of human presence in Peruvian territory has been dated to approximately 11,000 years BCE. The oldest known complex society in Peru, the Norte Chico civilization, flourished along the coast of the Pacific Ocean between 3000 and 1800 BCE. These early developments were followed by archaeological cultures such as Chavin, Paracas, Mochica, Nazca, Wari, and Chimu. In the 15th century, the Incas emerged as a powerful state which, in the span of a century, formed the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. Andean societies were based on agriculture, using techniques such as irrigation and terracing; camelid husbandry and fishing were also important. Organization relied on reciprocity and redistribution because these societies had no notion of market or money.

 

In 1532, a group of conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro defeated Inca Emperor Atahualpa and imposed Spanish rule. Ten years later, the Spanish Crown established the Viceroyalty of Peru, which included most of its South American colonies. Viceroy Francisco de Toledo reorganized the country in the 1570s with silver mining as its main economic activity and Indian forced labor as its primary workforce. Peruvian bullion provided revenue for the Spanish Crown and fueled a complex trade network that extended as far as Europe and the Philippines. However, by the 18th century, declining silver production and economic diversification greatly diminished royal income. In response, the Crown enacted the Bourbon Reforms, a series of edicts that increased taxes and partitioned the Viceroyalty of Peru. The new laws provoked Túpac Amaru II's rebellion and other revolts, all of which were defeated.

 

In the early 19th century, while most of South America was swept by wars of independence, Peru remained a royalist stronghold.

Elsa and Pedro on a Los Uros love bed
As the elite hesitated between emancipation and loyalty to the Spanish Monarchy, independence was achieved only after the military campaigns of José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar. During the early years of the Republic, endemic struggles for power between military leaders caused political instability. National identity was forged during this period, as Bolivarian projects for a Latin American Confederation foundered and a union with Bolivia proved ephemeral. Between the 1840s and 1860s, Peru enjoyed stability under the presidency of Ramón Castilla due to increased state revenues from guano exports. However, by the 1870s, these resources had been squandered, the country was heavily indebted, and political in-fighting was again on the rise.

 

Peru was defeated by Chile in the 1879–1883 War of the Pacific, losing the provinces of Arica and Tarapacá in the treaties of Ancón and Lima. Internal struggles after the war were followed by a period of stability under the Civilista Party, which lasted until the onset of the authoritarian regime of Augusto B. Leguía. The Great Depression caused the downfall of Leguía, renewed political turmoil, and the emergence of the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA). The rivalry between this organization and a coalition of the elite and the military defined Peruvian politics for the following three decades.

 

In 1968, the Armed Forces, led by General Juan Velasco Alvarado, staged a coup against the president Fernando Belaunde. The new regime undertook radical reforms aimed at fostering development but failed to gain widespread support. In 1975, Velasco was forcefully replaced as president by General Francisco Morales Bermúdez, who paralyzed reforms and oversaw the reestablishment of democracy. During the 1980s, Peru faced a considerable external debt, ever-growing inflation, a surge in drug trafficking, and massive political violence. Under the presidency of Alberto Fujimori (1990–2000), the country started to recover; however, accusations of authoritarianism, corruption, and human rights violations forced his resignation after the controversial 2000 elections. Since the end of the Fujimori regime, Peru has tried to fight corruption while sustaining economic growth; the current president is Alan García.

 

At around 12:00 we tipped Gonçalo, said goodbye and got on our Bus with our new Peruvian guide and headed to our next destination – Puno.

Little House on the Prairie dance
Puno is a city in southeastern Peru, located on the shore of Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake, at 3,860 m (12,421 ft) above sea level. It is also the capital and largest city of the Puno Region and the Puno Province. The city was established in 1668 by viceroy Pedro Antonio Fernández de Castro as capital of the province of Paucarcolla with the name San Juan Bautista de Puno. The name was later changed to San Carlos de Puno, in honor of king Charles II of Spain. The city boasts several churches dating back from the colonial period, they were built to service the Spanish population and evangelize the natives.

 

Today, Puno is an important agricultural and livestock region; particularly of South American camelids (llamas and alpacas) which graze on its immense plateaus and plains. Many homes in Puno, much like surrounding cities, are half-

 

finished. This is done so that the inhabitants do not have to pay taxes. Much of the city economy relies on the black market, fueled by cheap goods smuggled in from Bolivia. Puno has been designated to become a Special Economic Zone or "Zona Económica" by Peru's president, Alan Garcia. Puno is served by the Inca Manco Capac International Airport in nearby Juliaca.

 

Puno is known as the folkloric capital of Peru due to its wealth of artistic and cultural expressions, particularly dance. They are most notable during the celebrations of the Feast of the "Virgen de la Candelaria" and the Regional Competition of Autochthonous Dances. Puno's access to Lake Titicaca is surrounded by 41 floating islands. To this day, the Uros people maintain and live on these man-made islands, depending on the lake for their survival and are a large tourist destination.

 

We had lunch on the bus (some basic sandwiches) and during our 3 hour drive passed several notable towns like Pomata, which has the most impressive architectural treasures and holds “mestizo” type paintings from the XVII and XVIII century.

On the lookout for Indians
  Next was Juli, which holds most of the Jesuit Missions legacy, with four spectacular churches, then the ancient towns of Acora and Plateria, both popular for their reed boat building yards.  Chucuito was the next stop, with some ruins of pre-Colombian times, before our final destination, the Peruvian port of Puno at 15:00. After check-in at La Hacienda Hotel, we departed the harbor to the Los Uros Islands for a visit.

 

The Uros is the name of a group of pre-Incan people who live on 42 self-fashioned floating man-made islets located in Lake Titicaca off Puno, Peru. The Uros use the totora plant to make boats (balsas mats) of bundled dried reeds as well as to make the islands themselves. Around 3,000 descendants of the Uros are alive today, although only a few hundred still live on and maintain the islands; most have moved to the mainland. The Uros also bury their dead on the mainland in special cemeteries.

 

The purpose of the island settlements was originally defensive, and if a threat arose they could be moved. The largest island retains a watchtower almost entirely constructed of reeds. The Uros traded with the Aymara tribe on the mainland, interbreeding with them and eventually abandoning the Uro language for that of the Aymara. About 500 years ago they lost their original language. When this pre-Incan civilization was conquered by the Incans, they had to pay taxes to them, and often were made slaves.

 

The islets are made of totora reeds, which grow in the lake. The dense roots that the plants develop support the islands. They are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top constantly. This is especially important in the rainy season when the reeds rot a lot faster. The islands last about 30 years. Much of the Uros' diet and medicine also revolve around these reeds. When a reed is pulled, the white bottom is often eaten for iodine. This prevents goiter. This white part of the reed is called the chullo. Like the Andean people of Peru rely on the Coca Leaf for relief from a harsh climate and hunger, the Uros people rely on the Totora reeds in the same way.

Cuy!!!!... Roasted Guinea Pig
When in pain, the reed is wrapped around the place in pain to absorb it. They also make a reed flower tea.

 

The larger islands house about 10 families, while smaller ones, only about 30 meters wide, house only two or three. There are about 2 or 3 children per family currently. Local residents fish ispi, carachi and catfish. There are 2 types of fish foreign to the lake which was recently introduced. Trout was introduced from Canada in 1940 and the kingfish was introduced from Argentina. They also hunt birds such as seagulls, ducks and flamingos and graze their cattle on the islets. They also run crafts stalls aimed at the numerous tourists who land on ten of the islands each year. They barter totora reeds on the mainland in Puno to get products they need like quinoa or other foods. Food is cooked with fires placed on piles of stones. To relieve themselves, tiny 'outhouse' islands are near the main islands. The ground root absorbs the waste. The Uros do not reject modern technology: some boats have motors, some houses have solar panels to run appliances such as TV, and the main island is home to an Uros-run FM radio station, which plays music for several hours a day. Early schooling is done on several islands, including a traditional school and a school run by a Christian church. Older children and university students attend school on the mainland, often in nearby Puno.

 

During our visit of one of these small islands we were received by the leader who explained their way of life and we had the opportunity to ask several questions. We also had the chance to try on their traditional close and even played around a bit by dancing while they watched laughing at our craziness. We bought some of their traditional pottery and textiles and left for a quick visit of another island.

 

We returned to the Hotel where we would spend the night and after about 20 minutes left for dinner. We had made reservations at a Restaurant which specialized in Cuy. Cuy is roasted Guinea Pig eaten regularly as a traditional South American dish. It tasted a bit like rabbit, but I felt like I was eating a large rat. Daniel was all too happy to eat the rest…. strange food is his specialty. We walked around Puno, exchanged some dollars and returned to the Hotel.

Plaza de Armas of Puno

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Isla de los Uros
Isla de los Uros
Pedro and Nelson on top of the boat
Pedro and Nelson on top of the boat
Funny boats
Funny boats
The tribal leader trying to kill o…
The tribal leader trying to kill …
Elsa and Pedro on a Los Uros love …
Elsa and Pedro on a Los Uros love…
Little House on the Prairie dance
Little House on the Prairie dance
On the lookout for Indians
On the lookout for Indians
Cuy!!!!... Roasted Guinea Pig
Cuy!!!!... Roasted Guinea Pig
Plaza de Armas of Puno
Plaza de Armas of Puno
Map of Lake Titicaca
Map of Lake Titicaca
Puno from our boat
Puno from our boat
Isla de los Uros
Isla de los Uros
Isla de los Uros
Isla de los Uros
Isla de los Uros
Isla de los Uros
Isla de los Uros
Isla de los Uros
The tribal leader (left) and our g…
The tribal leader (left) and our …
A Young Uroan Girl (back)
A Young Uroan Girl (back)
A Young Uroan Girl (front)
A Young Uroan Girl (front)
The tribal leader
The tribal leader
The tribal leader trying to sell a…
The tribal leader trying to sell …
Nelson and Rute Marques with tradi…
Nelson and Rute Marques with trad…
Elsa, Rute Marques and Rute Pinhei…
Elsa, Rute Marques and Rute Pinhe…
Our group... having a blast!
Our group... having a blast!
Row...row....row... your boat....
Row...row....row... your boat....
Isla de los Uros
Isla de los Uros
Yummy Cuy
Yummy Cuy
Disgusting Cuy!!!
Disgusting Cuy!!!
Los Uros
Puno
photo by: lrecht