Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and it’s partially in Peru and partially in Bolivia.One of the main attractions on the lake are the Uros floating islands, a group of 42 or so artificial islands made of floating reeds (totora reed).They constantly add new reeds and straw to the islands to keep them floating,as the reeds at the bottom rot away with time. They have to add a new layer of reeds every couple of weeks. The purpose of the island settlements was originally defensive, and if a threat arose they could be moved, but I think they are more or less stationary nowadays.
While some of the islands are now touristic, on most of the smaller islands, most of the smaller islands the inhabitants still practice a traditional way of life that includes old-technique fishing, bird-trapping, and relying on totora for housing and transportation. It´s amazing that they still don´t have any monetary means in their society. Everything is still done through Barter system. i.e whenever they need something from the mainland like oil or sugar, they boat to the mainland and barter their produce – fish, bird, eggs etc.. for the things they need.
Depending on the size of the island, three to ten Uros families live on each of them. Each island has a well defined hierachy and each has a president. On the island that I visited, the president was a woman and she made a speech in Aymara about their island and how they live. Yes, they still speak Aymara, an ancient language from their ancestors. Not many of them speak spanish. They do have a school system though on one of the floating islands. It was neat to see children row their little reed boats to school. Also each island has a tower ‘ it´s how they communicate with other islands.
¨These floating islands are the home of the Uros tribe, one which pre-dates the Incan civilization. According to their legends, they existed before the sun, when the earth was still dark and cold. They were impervious to drowining or being struck by lightning. They lost their status as super beings when they disobeyed universal order and mixed with humans, making them susceptible to contempt. They scattered, losing their identity, language, and customs. They became the Uro-Aymaras, and now speak Aymara. 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.¨ (from http://gosouthamerica.about.com/od/topdestlaketiticaca/a/floatingislands.htm)