Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake, and the legendary birthplace of the Inca civilization. Lake Titicaca’s cultural, historical, and geographical significance makes it one of South America’s prime tourist destinations.
In the mythology of the Incas, Manco Capac was the founder of the Inca nation and a cultural hero who set the Incas on the road to glory. The best-known version of this story, The Royal Commentaries of the Inca by Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, relates that the sun god was distressed that the earth people did not live in a civilized way. As he crossed the sky each day, he saw that they wore only leaves and animal skins for clothing, lived in caves, and gathered wild plants for food. The sun god decided to send his son, Manco Capac, and daughter, Mama Ocllo, to teach the people how to improve their way of life. He gave his children a golden rod and told them to push it into the ground wherever they stopped to rest. When they reached a spot where the rod sank completely into the ground with a single push, they were to build a sacred city of the sun, to be named Cuzco. Setting out from Lake Titicaca, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo wandered the land and finally came to a valley where the golden rod sank easily into the ground. There they gathered all the people from near and far and taught them how to build homes, make clothes, make tools, and grow crops. They also taught the people how to use weapons so that they could defend themselves and defeat others.
There is a village in Peru where the inhabitants, the Aurochs, live on artificial islands in Lake Titicaca. Constructed of cattails, a plant that grows in water and that can reach one to three meters in height, more than 60 islands made from cattail reeds float in the lake, providing homes and shelter to hundreds of years. Fortunately, only a few have surrendered to the influences of tourism. The Uros live in one of the oldest towns in America. Their lives are spent fishing, hunting, and working with the cattail reeds.