Sunday, November 25, 2012

17 Sheep

Seventeen sheep is what Celso needs to complete the forty-five required to marry Juana.  Taquile has complicated and beautiful traditions that are adhered to by the almost 2,000 inhabitants on this remote island in Lake Titicaca.  In 2005, the island was declared a world treasure by UNESCO for the beautiful textiles produced by both the men and women.  Men knit and women weave.  Both learn their trades as young children and much of their worth is determined by the detail and quality of the images they weave into caps, belts, shawls, and purses (worn only by the men).   The textiles tell stories of their own lives and their cultures.

Juana began weaving Celso a wedding belt when he came to live with her and her parents when he was 20

and she 19.  Each couple must live in each other's home for a year before the local elected headman might approve their marriage to be held in May.  The parents carefully watch for qualities in the possible couple that will suggest they will have a successful marriage.  There is no divorce so this is an important period of trial and testing.  Throughout it, the bride to be expresses her thoughts of her possible groom in her weavings of his belt.  He is also busy knitting a red hat (he must wear white if single) and a purse to hold the coca leaves married men exchange in greeting rather than handshakes or hugs. 

Despite an obvious successful match, a house, and a 6 year old, Juana and Celso remain unmarried, wearing clothing traditional to singles in their society.  They lack the 45 sheep this almost completely vegetarian society will feast on in May for a five day celebration.  Normally, the parents of both the bride and the groom provide the sheep; however, Celso is the 5th of 6 children and the sheep of his parents are gone.  He must
work in a society with little material wealth to earn the soles (Peruvian currency) for each sheep.  Without marriage, neither Celso's nor Juana's voices may be heard during the weekly communal assemblies and decisions of their island.

He had 28 and needed 17 sheep as our home stay with three other travelers from Ireland, Scotland, and  Czechoslovakia began.    We pooled our groups resources, bought weavings and knitted products, and donated money.  By the time we left, the family was three sheep nearer to a May wedding....

Pictures are from Taquile, Peru of Jess and Celso, Juana showing the wedding belt as Celso knits, and of Wilfredo, their 6 year old son.    Posted in La Paz, Bolivia

1 comment:

  1. another nice story -- sounds as though you two are experiencing lots -- - - -continued safe travels