We left our homestay and travelled an hour across Lake Titicaca to Taquile Island, a community with a tradition of knitting and an interesting way of managing their society though a method of community controlled tourism.
Entering the village everyone was knitting or spinning wool – men, women, children… The knitting is exceptionally fine as they use needles that are very thin metal spikes, closer to big pins.
They have a system of colours and clothing that makes status really clear. The 7 elected heads of the community, who serve for 1 year, wear one type of knitted hat, their families also wear distinctive head gear to identify them. Married men wear a patterned hat that is predominantly red while single men wear hats that start with a band of red and then turn into a white hat with a pom pom that shows their dating status by the position. Red denotes responsibility while white shows that they can be carefree.
The women all wear black shawls, single women have large pom poms on the shawl while married have more discrete pom poms.
Once a couple decide to marry, they have to live together for 1 year before getting married and the man has to wear the pom pom of his hat on the opposite side of his head. If it doesn’t work out the couple part as friends, if they decide to marry the celebration lasts for 7 days with the groom in a chair fed only by the bucks party and the bride on the floor fed only by the hens. The whole community attends but they bring everything that is required for the celebrations.
They manage the community through community collectivism and on the Inca moral code ama sua, ama llulla, ama qhilla, (Quechua for “do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy”).
Each family works on a rotational basis, they could spend one week farming, the next running a tourist restaurant, the next repairing or building houses etc… When a new couple require a new house a team is assembled based in the understanding that the couple will do the same in the future.
It seems to work for them – is this the basis for Cameron’s “big society”?