This Month: The Feast of San Santiago & Taquile Textile Fair on Lake Titicaca

This Month: The Feast of San Santiago & Taquile Textile Fair on Lake Titicaca

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The Island of Taquile in Lake Titicaca has been inhabited for over ten thousand years, first by the Pukara culture before being integrated into the Tiahuanaco Kingdom and the Inca Empire. It has the distinction of being one of the final holdouts resisting the Spanish conquest. Although it was probably known as Intika during the Inca Empire, the island took its current name from Count Rodrigo of Taquila, who received the island after it fell to the Spanish.

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After a brief stint as an island prison during the republic, ownership of the island of Taquile was returned to the local communities some decades ago. Today it houses a couple thousand Quechua-speaking residents spread throughout the various villages. Residents still don the Spanish peasant clothing they were forced to adopt after the conquest, combined with Andean ponchos, coca-leaf purses, and belts. The island’s day to day life is run though community collectivism and the economy relies mainly on fishing, terraced agriculture, and tourism.

Taquile_24Most visitors who visit Taquile due so as part of a tour including Amantani Island and the Floating Islands of Uros. The Uros islands are sometimes referred to as Peru’s “Disney experience”, but are considered an obligatory stop regardless because despite their increasingly touristic nature, they’re still a site like no other.

Meanwhile, the lesser-known Taquile is popular for Taquile_14the warmth of its people, its scenic hikes, and the very traditional and communal way of life of its inhabitants.  If you visit Taquile without visiting the other islands first, it takes three hours to reach the island (although much less if you opt for a more expensive speedboat option.) One does not see dogs and cats on the island, as these are considered delicacies, and families must receive community permission to have one.

Each July 25th through August 2nd, Taquile honors its patron saint, the Apostle James (San Santiago). The night before the ascent of the saint on August 2nd is marked by dances, serenades and fireworks, although if you visit anytime during this period you are likely to be treated to a festive atmosphere with abundant chicha (fermented corn beer) and a backdrop of Sikuris and others playing panpipes, Andean flutes, and drums while other perform the Candelaria, Cinta K´ana, Taquilean Carnaval, and other traditional dances.

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The Taquile art fair takes place around the same time, from July 25th through August 5th.

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Taquile_12Handwoven Taquilean textiles are considered some of the best handicrafts in Peru, UNESCO even declared the textile art of Taquile Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005. While yarnmaking and weaving are considered female tasks, knitting is exclusively done by males. Alongside soapmaking, these are some of the traditional tasks you’ll be able to observe during your visit. During the art fair, you will find the families of the Artisan Association displaying their wares in the main square.

The festival ends with the offering to the Pachamama (the Andean version of the mother earth).

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