Amantani Island

There is a tiny island floating in the expansive Lake Titicaca in Central South America.

Its peak is 4100ft above sea level—where the air is thin and smells of Muńa and the environment very alien to someone like myself.

Until recently the islands people were very insular as if time had been frozen.

They are predominantly a farming community, with land only being passed down from generation to generation. No outsiders can be given or purchase land there, and it is expected that the next generation will continue just as the previous…until recently.

The outside world has come to Amantani Island in the form of tourists from all corners of the globe. The islands families take it in turns to host home stays, where you become, for one night, adopted into their family. An unforgettable experience.

Thanks to my Chilean born friend who speaks perfect Spanish, we had an amazing insight into their history, present lives and future aspirations.

Our home stay Patriarch, wanted his daughters to leave the island, to study and have a career, even at the inevitability that the farmland would lay barren, yielding no more corn, quinoa and potatoes. These are the crops that his family have grown for countless generations.

I asked him why.

From his perspective, its a hard life and he sees no future in it for his daughters. He would forfeit seeing his daughters again, in the knowledge that they would be financially secure through careers on the mainland.

A perfectly reasonable assessment really, but after pondering on it, I thought it a sad state of things. From my perspective, I see the beauty in their landscape—the value of that extremely close community where every person assists each member in all aspects of their lives—from all the women of the village gathering to help bring the newest life into the world, to the whole community celebrating the changing seasons, with food, music and joyous dancing. It is a place where the entire village would help build each others new homes, and where the elders are honoured and pass down their wisdom to the young.

Their community is very rich socially in comparison with our urban sprawl and individualism.

I can’t help but wonder whether just maybe through our progress, we are poorer for it.

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