Exotic or alien, some people’s culture and lifestyles seem just about as far away from ours as is imaginable.
The Uro people who live along the shallow fringe of Lake Titicaca, may be close to that extreme.
Ancestors of this remnant pre-Incan population on Bolivia’s altiplano, or high plain, could have helped raise the great stone slabs at Tiahuanaco.
This ancient archeological site lies not far from their communities and about an hour and a half north of La Paz the capital of Bolivia.
Some of those slabs reportedly weigh in at 175 tonnes.
The Uros I ran across at Rio Desaguadero aren’t noted today for their heavy lifting. The Uros make it into guide books because of their use of the totora reed.
This aquatic plant provides the light, flexible, basic material for their homes, their boats and even the manmade islands that a few traditional families still live on.
The Uros’ small settlement near the mouth of the river that flows out of the 3,800-metre-high lake and forms part of the border of Bolivia with Peru, caters mainly to the tourist traffic along the Pan-American Highway.
Fishing and other age-old pursuits have given way to selling trinkets and displaying artifacts of their culture for the curious.
Many of the 3,000, or so, remaining Aymara-speaking Uros have now chosen the land over than the lake.
Elegant, canoe-shaped, totora reed boats have given way to more durable wooden and aluminum crafts.
Obviously motors powering the new boats offer a seductively faster option over the poles, paddles and sails of the reed boats.
Modern technology has touched all aspects of their lives.
I hear that solar panels even power televisions now on once isolated reed islands.
Communication technologies have brought the worlds most remote or isolated peoples back into the global family.
These same technologies also have helped foster a growing planetary consciousness of the basic fact that we really are one large family.
Organizations such as the National Geographic Society seek to scientifically inform this awareness.
It launched its five-year Genographic Project in April of 2005.
This research effort basically asks the question where did we come from and how did the various branches of the human family get where they are today.
The fact of our common African roots seems pretty well established now.
About 60,000 years ago something pushed or pulled a first wave of our common ancestors north out of Ethiopia and Eritrea across another land bridge exposed by an ice age and onto the Arabian Peninsula near present-day Yemen.
From there the journey continued.
“Two thousand generations after leaving the African savannah,” Nayan Chanda notes in his new Yale University Press book Bound Together, “the descendants who came to occupy different parts of the earth looked remarkably different from one another and spoke mutually incomprehensible languages.”
Our outward physical differences shaped by environmental adaptations mask our fundamental sameness.
Today humankind is on the brink of a grand rendezvous.
“The process of reconnecting the dispersed human community that started more than 10,000 years ago is stronger than ever, and thanks to technology it is continuously accelerating, binding us ever more tightly,” states Chanda.
Uro or Yukoner, we must celebrate our uniqueness but accept the fact that we are fundamentally one and act accordingly.
The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition will hold its monthly meeting on Thursday, February 28 at Maryhouse, 504 Cook Street from 5 to 7 p.m. All are welcome.