Taquile, the island on Lake Titicaca where weaving is a way of life - Titilaka - Relais & Châteaux

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Taquile, the island on Lake Titicaca where weaving is a way of life

March 2nd, 2017

Unique island products include a “calendar waistband” that tells the wearer’s life story.

The sheep and alpaca wool handicrafts are regarded as some of the finest textiles in Peru.

Surrounded by the deep, dark waters of Lake Titicaca, the views from the island of Taquile are breathtaking, including, on one horizon the snowy peaks of Bolivia’s Royal Mountain range. Yet the most remarkable thing about this island, just four miles long, with no cars and a population of around 2,000, is probably not its beautiful location or sense of pre-modern tranquility. Taquile is also home to one of the finest textile traditions in the Western Hemisphere, with locals specializing in a unique local take on the floppy hats, or chullos, worn across Peru, and chumpis, elaborated waistbands, that tell the wearer’s social status and even life history.

The chumpis use ideograms, symbols that represent a specific thing or thought. Many have double meanings, all of which are rooted in local growing seasons and the people’s intimate relationship with the earth. For example, one of a fish can also signify the month of August. Additionally, that month is understood by local people as a key moment to look to the season ahead and divine whether it will be a productive one with good harvests. Another includes a bird, signifies the month of March, and is also interpreted as meaning that, yes, the imminent harvest will be positive one as the community has given sufficient offerings to the Pacha Mama or Earth Mother.

Men weave their own hats. Red means they are married while white means they are single. There are other colors to indicate a host of different things about their social standing. But their chumpis are woven by their wives and often have an elaborate series of ideograms that only islanders can read. All the weaving is done on pre-Hispanic-style fixed and pedal looms, and the locals are more than happy to show visitors how they do it.

To see Taquile during your visit to Titilaka, please contact reservas@titilaka.pe or call +51-1-700-5106 or, if you are in the US, 1-347-713-7030/34.

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