Conflict Resolution in Bolivia – Isla del Sol

The Isla the Sol is the legendary origin of the Inca civilisation. According to legend s (there are several versions mind you) the people later known as the subjects of the Inca are descendents of the children of the sungod Inti. Their names are Mamaoclo and Mankokapac. They were siblings and came to this world on the Isla del Sol on Lake Titikaka. The sungod gave them a staff and asked them to settle down at the location where the staff would enter the ground. The siblings thus dutifully left the island and tried to find this place. After a long journey they finally found their destination in Cusco, which became their new home. Eventually they married and united the tribes around Cusco under their rule, thus the Inca civilisation was founded.

On the legendary Island of the Sun or Isla del Sol several ruins can still be found and the land is considered sacred ground. As usual with Andean duality, there is also an Isla de la Luna. Those two islands were the main tourist draw to the Bolivian lakeside town of Copacabana. A walking path from north to south of Isla del Sol spannd the island and connected the most important ruins and mythical places.

There is a reason though why we use the past tense here: As of right now there is a 15-month old unresolved conflict among the islanders. As a consequence the northern half of the island is blocked from the south. Mind you there are 3000 people living on the island.

The conflict resulted over the construction of a hostel in the middle part of the island, right next to a sacred site. People apparently put up the hostel without asking permission from the island council. The northerners argued that the building was a violation of sacred land. Fed up with the owners, they blew up the place with dynamite in February 2017. Now, as a kind of protest, the southerners physically hinder all tourists who want to make their way north.

Given the island is the undisputed number one attraction in this area, tourism has suffered a lot. We had a long conversation with an American couple running a pizzeria in town and they were clearly frustrated with the situation. To us the whole conflict seems to be unnecessary and helping no-one. However, it is always easy to judge from afar…

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