Taquile is another island in Lake Titikaka about a one hour boat trip from Amantani or three hours from Puno. These people also speak Quechua so are known as Incans also. The people on Taquile are experts in textile. The men knit by hand, while the women use looms. The most interesting thing about these people, are their customs as they pertain to courting and marriage.
The men in this society wear knitted hats. Red if you are married, and white if you are single. This makes it very easy to tell who’s married and who is single on this island. However, being single, you have options. You can be single and available, single and have a girlfriend, and single and living with someone. This is all distinguished by the way the hat folds down from their head. If the hat hangs to the right, he has a girlfriend. If the hat hangs to the rear, he is currently living with someone. If the hat hangs to the left, he’s free game and available.
Interesting, is the fact that if you have a girlfriend and decide to live together, you both live in the mans parents house. You can even procreate during this time. Marriage is not a necessity to have babies here.
The women, during a very young age, start eyeing the men looking for who will be their mate later in life. Now I would think, most women who check out men look at their butt, their face, or their physic. (Comments? Anyone?) Well, not here. These women are checking out the mens hands. They are looking for the “golden hands”! A man who knits well, will obviously make a good husband!
Also at a young age, the women start to knit a “marriage” belt for their future husband. When they are knitting this belt, it’s a secret, and no one knows it exists or when they are knitting. The belt is in two parts. One part is black and white, while the other part is very colorful.
The part of the belt that is black and white is woven with wool and human hair. The women actually use pieces of their own hair in the making of this belt. Once a husband is chosen and marriage has taken place, the women gives this belt to her new husband as a gift. It’s akin to a wedding ring in the Western civilization.
I found a man with a red hat and one of these belts on, and decided to ask him some question. I asked if he was married since wore the red hat as well as the marriage belt. He said yes, and was more than happy to show me his hat, his belt, as well as his little pouch of coca leaves that everyone carries around. Finally, I asked him which is better, to be married or single? He laughed, and said “single” of course! Hopefully, his wife will never read this blog.