For many generations, the homeland of the Uru people here was not land at all: it was the brackish waters of Lake Poopo.

The Uru — “people of the water” — would build a sort of family island of reeds when they married and would survive on what they could harvest from the broad, shallow lake in the highlands of southwestern Bolivia.

“They collected eggs, fished, hunted flamingos and birds. When they fell in love, the couple built their own raft,” said Abdón Choque, leader of Punaca, a town of some 180 people.

Now what was Bolivia’s second-largest lake is gone. It dried up about five years ago, a victim of shrinking glaciers, water diversions for farming and contamination. Ponds reappear in places during the rainy

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