There are only six hundred Uros people living on the islands these days and a lot of the population is mixed-race, with Quechua and Aymara blood. When the Incas controlled the region, they considered the Uros so poor – almost subhuman – that the only tribute required of them was a section of hollow cane filled with lice.
Life on the islands has certainly never been easy: the inhabitants have to go some distance to find fresh water, and the bottoms of the reed islands rot so rapidly that fresh matting has to be constantly added above. Islands last around twelve to fifteen years and it takes two months of communal work to start a new one.
More than half the islanders have converted to Catholicism and the largest community is very much dominated by its evangelical school. Forty years ago the Uros were a proud fishing tribe, in many ways the guardians of Titicaca, but the 1980s, particularly, saw a rapid devastation of their traditional values. However, things have improved over recent years and you do get a glimpse of a very unusual way of life. Note that lots of the people you may meet actually live on the mainland, only travelling out to sell their wares to tourists.