The Culture of Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world.

It’s also probably Perú’s most cultured area. In the islands of Lake Titicaca, people live just as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago—and we had the chance to experience it.

But this was more than a cultural experience for me; it was spiritual, too.

Isn’t it amazing how God knows exactly how to capture our attention and win our hearts?

On Saturday night, we hiked up a mountain called Pacha Mama. In Quechua, that means Mother Earth. Though I’m only five feet tall, I’m a pretty speedy hiker. However, I stop to take pictures too often to keep up with the fastest group, so I ended up making the hike alone.

I don’t usually like being alone, but this didn’t bother me so much. Throughout the whole time, I just talked to God about my hopes, my dreams, my fears. I was in awe of Him and His beautiful creation.

And when I made it to the top of Pacha Mama, I watched the sunset over El Lago Titicaca. It was one of the most breathtaking and beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

It was one of those moments where I thought to myself, “How can a human see this and not believe in the existence of God?”

It’s too incredible. To simply think there was a big explosion thousands of years ago or all of this came from nothing seems naive. How can we be perfectly living, breathing humans if that’s the case? How can Lake Titicaca exist, in all its splendor? How can we see clouds sink into valleys and schools of fish swim in the ocean and stars shine brighter than our own imagination?

Faith makes sense. God makes sense.

A few of my sisters in Christ made it to the top shortly after me, and we shared fellowship while watching the sunset. We read Psalm 121, words that only begin to describe the majesty of the Lord’s creation.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.

From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth…”

The Lord speaks to us in amazing ways, so long as we are willing to listen. Last weekend, God definitely spoke to me.

And, like I said, it was a cultural experience, too.

We visited a floating island, a phenomenon invented by Peruvians to escape the Spanish conquistadors hundreds of years ago. People still live on man-made floating islands all around the lake.

We visited the island of Amantani, where people are still daily clad in traditional clothing and live with little electricity or contact with people outside the island. At Amantani, we had a homestay with a family who invited us into their culture and even let us participate in a baby’s hair cutting ceremony, which is just as sacred as a baptism. We dressed in their clothes and went dancing with the people that night, which I think is about as Peruvian as it gets.

The following day, we went to the island of Taquile, where I think most of us experienced the most culture shock we’ve ever had in our lives. On Taquile, patriarchy is the way of life. Men on the island wear different hats to show their status—if they’re of age, if they’re looking for a wife, or if they’re married.

The men, however, are so timid that they often throw rocks at the women to get their attention. After that, they briefly court before he will ask her father’s permission for her hand in marriage. As can be expected on an island like this, he is required to complete a series of tasks before the father agrees.

Then, the man and woman live together for two years to see if it’ll work between them. If sometime in those two years they feel like it’s not going to work, they can separate. No problem. But, if they want to stay together at the end of the two years, they get married. This process is important because divorce does not exist on Taquile.

Weddings last three days; one day is for the parents of the groom, another for the parents of the bride, and another for the godparents. Throughout the whole three days, the women cannot look outside of her peripheral vision. Most of the time, she simply looks down. If she looks at anybody else, it signifies that she’s unhappy in her union. Unlike the culture of the United States, weddings in Taquile are not very enjoyable for the women.

While on Taquile, we hiked up a mountain and ate the best Trout I’ve ever had in my life. I took a dip in the lake (it’s as freezing as they say), and then we called it good. The trip was incredible, and it was nice to be unconnected from wifi and social media for a few days. Though I didn’t have any outlets to charge, I used my iPhone battery sparingly and came up with the following video from my trip. I hope you enjoy it!

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2 thoughts on “The Culture of Lake Titicaca

  1. What a beautiful blog and video. It is inspirational, fun, happy. Makes me want to experience the country. Thank you for sharing and letting me be a part of a glorious adventure.

  2. Oh my gosh Vanessa that is a greatest ever video and blog. Thank you for keeping me in the loop.

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