The Weavers of Lake Titicaca

11/08/2014

With the arrival of the Spanish, sheep and the treadle loom were introduced to Taquile, still the mainstay of the island’s textiles industry today. Weaving responsibilities are divided by gender. Men weave many of the garments and knit the chullo caps. Women have carved out certain niches of their own. The traditional belt, called a chumpi, with an intricate row of designs, often flora, fauna or geometric, is crafted by female weavers. One version is a calendar belt that contains twelve images depicting the months of the year. Women also weave shawls, called llicllas, and chuspas, small purses with tassels designed for carrying coca leaves.

Children are taught to knit and eventually advance into the trades.
In 2005, Taquile’s weavers earned the islanders a UNESCO designation as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, to help preserve the regional culture. The Peruvian government is documenting Taquile’s textile traditions, and workshops are held to demonstrate these techniques, in addition to the crafts school here that teaches weaving. Visitors on Peru tours may watch weavers making their crafts as well as find Andean knits to purchase.

Deciding what souvenirs to buy is always a dilemma in this bounty of riches, woven and knitted. Visitors who travel to Lake Titicaca will find items crafted here from yarn spun in the traditional ways or modern machine-spun. Over the past three decades, word about this textile paradise has spread. Taquile welcomes some 50,000 visitors each year. If you encounter too many tourists for your taste, it is important to remember that these mostly one-time visitors represent a key component in an otherwise meager economy. Weaving is also an important industry on the nearby, less-visited island of Amantani.

Tourist accommodations are available for visitors on Peru tours who wish to spend the night on Taquile Island. During their travel to Peru, most people make a day-trip of Taquile, also stopping at the off-shore floating reed islands called Los Uros that are located in the Bay of Puno. These three dozen islands comprise the Lake Titicaca National Reserve. It is an exotic experience to walk upon the reeds and observe how the inhabitants have made these plants the centerpiece of their economy.

Six of Southern Explorations’ Machu Picchu tours, ranging from nine to eighteen days, travel to Lake Titicaca and include a day-trip to Taquile Island and Los Uros. These trips also visit the indigenous craft markets of Pisac and Chinchero. We also offer a three-day tour extension to Lake Titicaca that may be added to any of our Peru tours.