I met “El Presidente” – that’s how he introduced himself to us – on La Isla Summa Willjta, one of the floating islands on Lake Titicaca. He was a dark-skinned, middle-aged man, dressed in shabby pants and a plain blouse; his face remained hidden under the shade of a soft hat, but his smile shone brightly even from afar. He stood proudly in the center of the island and, like a rooster in a hencoop, was surrounded with a few kids and several women of a variety of ages, all of whom were similarly dark-skinned. Unlike him, though, their faces were expressionless as if carved out of an ancient trunk, and they were dressed in vivid colors that looked dazzling against the blue of the shimmering lake on that August sunny morning.
We docked our speed boat next to the traditional balsa (the local reed boat), and tottered our way ashore, floating at an elevation of more than 3800 m, and sinking a little bit with each step into a wobbly ground that seemed like a grand pallet. We sat in a semi-circle, on heaps of reeds bundled together and covered with colorful woolen blankets, and, I felt, it was a pity the day was still young, for this should have been a storytelling experience to be lived under the starry sky. The Uros people surrounded us, emitting the familiar enchantment conveyed by everything new and unusual, while the legendary waters kept on flapping and murmuring under our feet, rattled by the ongoing wake of the numerous boats. [Read more…]