Background of the Uros ethnic group

The towns known as Uros, or Urus, still inhabit the Collao or Titicaca plateau, a high plateau located at an average altitude of 3600 meters above sea level and which is inscribed in the current territories of southern Peru, western Bolivia, North-east from Chile and North-western Argentina.

Currently there are two important sub-groups of this culture, also separated by their geopolitical context, the Uros of Bolivia: where the communities of Muratos, Chipaya and Irohito are distinguished; and the Uros of Peru, who live on the floating islands on Titicaca, approximately 6 km from the city of Puno, capital of the province and district of Puno. It is these last towns that, in my opinion, have managed to form a city of water with its archipelago of floating islands.

Even though they had incursions and agricultural and livestock control on land, after the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, the Uros established themselves as lake settlers, with an economy and subsistence based on fishing, bird hunting and egg collection, thus such as the cut and weaving of the reeds, a fundamental element that formed the link between land and water and allowed them to build their homes, boats and islands.

The population known by the name of Uros, they call themselves “Kostuña” which means “the lake town”. Apparently the name of Uros corresponded to an insult from the neighboring Aymara peoples, due to the custom of the lakesiders to go fishing and sail at night: under the protection of their most important deities: the moon and “Qutamama” goddess of the lake, both as feminine personifications of a nature that protects them.

Alfonsina Barionuevo, in her inquiries about the Uros, tells us that a long time ago, the ancient millennial legends tell that the Uros populated the Collas swamps. They were survivors of races destroyed by cataclysms that preceded modern man. According to them they belong to the first humanity, created by the gods and identifying themselves as the beings of the lake.

The Uros – Chipaya are perhaps the oldest race on the American continent, absorbed by the Aymara.
These original towns spoke several languages, of which only the Chipaya language survives, which is spoken in the community that bears the same name on the Coipasa salt flat in Bolivia. The Peruvian Uros, studied here, achieved the cultural syncretism that Posnanski describes, adopting Aymara and Spanish as their mother tongues.