The island-dwelling Uros of Lake Titicaca: Visiting a misunderstood tourist trap. (VIDEO)

Curious and exotic places.
Feb. 25 2011 11:04 AM

The Island People

The seventh hidden wonder of South America.

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What Victor and Cristina are trying to do is to craft a third way between assimilation and tradition. They've come to realize that the Disneyfication of their culture—under their own control, and on their own terms—is the only viable route to its conservation. They've sent their children to college in Puno to study hospitality and to learn foreign languages. Their eldest daughter, Maribel, with whom we exchanged several e-mails prior to our arrival, came back to the island after completing her studies and now appears on the cover of a glossy brochure advertising Qhantati.

Tourists say they crave authenticity—show us what it would be like if we weren't here!—but they don't want to know the truth, which is that the Uros are not quite as primitive as their living situation suggests. The authentic story of the Uros is that they are trying to preserve their unique culture while giving themselves and their children the best possible future. If that means commodifying their culture and selling their unique story, so be it.

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GoPro provided the travelers with some camera equipment free of charge.

For more on the world's wondrous, curious, and esoteric places, check out  Atlas Obscura.

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In addition to being the co-founder of the Atlas Obscura, Joshua Foer is the author of Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, which grew out of a story he wrote for Slate.