National Geographic : 1900 Jul
THE ROAD TO BOLIVIA the children of the Sun, to redeem and regenerate. Early in the Christian era a man and a woman appeared one morning in the pres ence of the astonished natives on the Island of Titicaca, who said that they had been sent by the Great Creator, the father and ruler of all things, who inhabited the sun, to lead them into a better life, to teach them the knowledge of useful things and improve their condition. Previous to the arrival of these mysterious missionaries the Peru vians were divided into rude and warlike tribes, ignorant of useful industry and culture, knowing no law and no morals. The Island of Titicaca is now the property of Mr Miguel Garces, of Puno. A village of 700 or 800 Indians are living in mud huts and raising wheat, barley, and potatoes among the remnants of the earliest culture of America. The island lies a mile or so from the main shore, froii which it is separated by a bottomless channel. The nearest port is the little town of Calle. There is no communication except by balsas, the curious craft that are older than history, and were used by the Incas, as they are used by the Indians today, for transportation. They are built of barley straw, tied together in bunches, and then bound by wisps in the shape of a double or treble gondola. The Indians who inhabit the island are usually docile and indus trious, for they are compelled to wring a scanty living from the un willing soil, and are assiduous in their religious duties at a little chapel attended by a native priest, although they still retain many of the rites of their aboriginal religion. The ruins of the palaces and temples which formerly covered this sacred place have been the object of investigation by archaeologists for nearly four centuries-ever since they were destroyed by the Spanish invaders-and much of the material used in their construction has been carried away for building purposes, both upon the island and the mainland. It is remarkable that even one stone should be left upon another during the 360 years since the conquistadors invaded the peaceful precincts of the place, for they destroyed and plundered everything of value, and those who have been searching for the secrets of the extinct civilization have overturned nearly everything that the Spaniards left. Among the best preserved of the ruins are the royal baths of marble, as sumptuous as those of Italy or Greece at a similar period. The bottoms were carefully covered with a mosaic of small stones, and the water was received through the throats of the eagles, condors, and serpents wrought in gold and silver.