LOCATION | Lake Titicaca, Peru

TYPOLOGY | Islanding
SYSTEM | Totora Reed Islands

Legend says that the ‘people of the black blood’ existed as superhuman beings before the sun, when the earth was still dark and cold. Impervious to drowning or lightning strike, they lost their powers by disobeying universal order and mixing with humans. Pre-dating Incan civilization, the Uros are one of the oldest and most isolated tribes in South America and one of only few civilizations that live directly on a body of water - Lake Titicaca - resting on the border of Peru and Bolivia in the Andes Mountains. They are descendants of the original Altiplano settlers, who arrived in the region some three thousand seven hundred years ago. A three million-year-old lake, Lake Titicaca is South America’s largest lake by volume, holding one hundred and ninety-eight cubic miles of freshwater. Although the region is considered the tropics, Titicaca’s high elevation and cold water sends a chill through the body upon touch, giving the Uros their black-blooded legendary identity. The necklace of island homes on which they survive is constructed by hand from the reeds growing abundantly in the marshland surrounding the eighty-three hundred square kilometer lake. Because of their simple and precarious lifestyle, the Incas thought them worth little and accordingly taxed them very little. Yet the Uros, with their basic reed homes outlasted the mighty Incas with their huge stone temples and mountain-top enclaves.

Illustrations by Brittany Roy