Katabasis Goes Down South, Pt. 2

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I had the most bizarre run-in with globalization today. We went to this little island in the middle of Lake Titicaca known for its traditional way of life and stayed with a family there overnight. We brought them rice and oranges and candles. Katrina brought sparkly Barbie barrettes for the girls and toy trucks for the boys. The kids, of course, loved it, but I worried about what sort of influence machine-made toys from the mainland (let alone gender-specific ones) would have on the kids.

Katrina gave the boy a fire truck, and when he started to play with it he made siren noises. I couldn't figure out how a boy who has not been to school, has no television, and lives on an island without vehicles knows what sound a fire truck makes. Modernization has clearly permeated their culture farther than they let on for tourists.

The island has three commandments, "Don't be lazy," "Don't steal," and "Don't lie." A little girl stole cookies from one of the other women in our group. The cookies don't matter, but the exchange of her culture for ours does. That woman summed up her experience on the island as 'creepy' and I have to agree. Industrialization lurked in all the corners--the little tubes of carmel that showed up with the crepes at breakfast, the virtually complete abandonment of traditional dress in favor of manufactured clothing, or the women selling bottled water and mass-produced alpaca sweaters on the way up to their temple.

It seemed like they already had the idea that the best things come from the main land, and that it�s normal for their economy to depend on tourist dollars. The guide said that when the boys are old enough, most of them go to Puno and only 1 in 5 returns. A neighboring island with similar attrition is only projected to last another six years. I guess the island decided to adopt tourism, and from there the influx of modernization was assured. I just wish I weren't part of it.

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I don't know why, but it tickles me pink that you noticed the incongruity of the siren noises the kid made.

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This page contains a single entry by published on August 1, 2004 5:15 PM.

Katabasis Goes Down South: Pt. 3 was the previous entry in this blog.

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