Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Inca Moral Code on Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca

The inhabitants of Taquile, a small island on Lake Titicaca located some 45 km offshore from Puno, follow the strict Incan moral code ama sua, ama llulla, ama qhilla (Quechua for "do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy").

“Do not be lazy” for Taquilenos means relying on their own strength to do the majority of chores. Not only do they not use motorized equipment (e.g., cars), but they don’t even use wheel carts or farm animals. We were very impressed to see several older people carry huge loads on their backs from the docks to the main village–the elevation difference of around 200 meters (650 feet). It might not seem like much, but at 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) of altitude it is a lot. Most people in our group were gasping for air and stopping every few meters to catch their breath, while Taquilenos kept on marching at an even pace.

It is also admirable that Taquilenos do not lie and do not steal, but I guess I would expect that from all small and isolated communities. If you live on an island with only 2,200 people, you’d better make sure that you don’t make enemies with anybody!

Taquilenos are also known for their textile products, and, in 2005, "Taquile and Its Textile Art" were proclaimed by UNESCO to be "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity." We wanted to buy some woven hats, but we got discouraged by their excessive price. We were interested, though, to learn that a hat’s color and the way it’s worn helps distinguish married from single men, and the ones who are looking for a wife from the ones who want to be single. So, the red hat is worn solely by married men, and the white-red by the single. If a single man is looking for a wife, he will wear the hat’s end on the side of his head, and if he is not looking he will keep the hat’s end on the back of his head. How cool and simple is that?! I’m convinced that single people in most countries would appreciate this simple system of announcing dating intentions and that it would lead to an increase in happily married couples worldwide.