Amantani Island – Can Tourism Enhance Culture?

Amantani Island – Cultures Strengthened by Tourism

As the boat cruises slowly across the impressively encapsulated Lake Titicaca it is for passengers to forget that they are coasting at 3810 meters above sea level.  It would be easy forgive someone to think that they were effortlessly sailing along one of the world’s  great seas.  The lake, at one point in histoy, must have been covered with a myriad of fishing boats.  Local people have netted these waters for the small native fish that live in its cold waters for years.  However, recently, these waters have been overrun by large kingfish and trout put into the lake as a more readily available source of protein.  And much like the new foreign fish that are occupying the depths of the water, a new foreign visitor is beginning to grace the surface of its waters as well.

The boat begins to approach its island destination.  Women dressed in brightly coloured clothing that has been inspired by traditional, Christian, and Muslim influences sit patiently along side the concrete dock awaiting their timid new guests.  As they sit, the women’s hands are in constant motion as they hurry to knit a locally inspired beanie which they hope to sell to their intrigued visitors.  The foreign guests nervously crawl in to meet their homestay mamas and then are quickly whisked away to be shown how the people live here on Amantani Island.

The truth is that most people who arrive to this remote island in the middle of the world’s highest navigable are somewhat expecting the local inhabitants to live in completely primitive conditions.  I’d like to believe that it’s not the case that people go to these islands in hopes of finding out that its occupants live in relative poverty, but I’m sure some travelers seek, and maybe even relish in, that situation.  The truth is however, that despite the traditional clothing, the jagged pre-Inca terraces, and stone walls that describe this island, many on the island are living quite a modern life.  Much of the new found “luxuries” that the local people are beginning to enjoy are a direct result of the growth of a tourism market.

Academics and journalist from around the world all so often discount travel as another arm of globalization’s or the “Western World’s” imperialism.  However, it seems that far too many dispel the possible positive affects brought in with the footprints of responsible tourism.  We sometimes live in a fantasy world imagining that without tourism people would live their lives in peace, traditionally, sustainably, and happy in a world without the stresses of the “real world.”  It seems, however, that on Amantani Island I have found something to the contrary. best attraction Sentosa singapore 

As I sit down with my homestay papa, who tells me he is fifty although he looks to be closer to seventy, I shake his hands and notice that they are warn and rough from long days working the terraces of potatoes and of corn.  He begins by telling me about how happy he is that we have come to stay with them, how much it means to their family to be able to earn a small wage.  “Tenemos todo que necesitamos (we have everything we need) he tells me in a firm voice as if reassuring his pride as much as he is letting me that they don’t need us, “we can grow our crops, drink our sheep’s milk, and eat our chicken’s meat.”  But as he explains, life is much more comfortable than it has been in the past.  He has seen three of his sons run off to the city of Puno to work odd jobs for meagre wages amongst the noise and stress.  As they work in the city, he worries, they could lose their birth language of Quechua, their traditions, and maybe even their minds.


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