Indigenous Worlds

Four Transformations that Ayahuasca Tourism is Producing in the Traditional Ayahuasca Practice

A look into Western assumptions and modifications of traditional ayahuasca practices. “The ayahuasca brew is known locally as “the purge”: rather than to address a specific disease, the locals consume it to cleanse the stomach and the blood, throw up bad energy and attract good luck: hunting, sales, wife or husband. Thus, the purgative property of the remedy (result of the vine’s alkaloids, Banisteriopsis caapi) is privileged over its visionary property (due to the DMT of the chacruna, Psychotria viridis).

Westerners, in popular texts and widespread opinion, celebrate DMT; the vine’s function is to allow the DMT not to be destroyed in the stomach but instead reach the bloodstream.”

Mestizo Shamanism and Vegetalistas

What is mestizo shamanism? The Loreto province of northeastern Peru (and to a lesser extent to Ucayali province south of it) is virtually unique in Latin America in that indigenous shamanic practices have been adopted and adapted by the mestizo population, and become a part of the mestizo culture. While mestizo curanderismo is not unknown elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world, it is almost always found in isolated rural areas. Among most mestizo populations, there is strong social pressure to distance oneself from the scorned indigenous world and embrace the prestigious Spanish/western world, and only in the most isolated rural regions would mestizos continue indigenous practices. And in the modern world, with television and mass communication, such pockets of isolation are fast disappearing. Yet, in the province of Loreto in northeastern Peru, not only does an active mestizo shamanism thrive, but it thrives even in urban centers. Especially in the city of Iquitos – population about 400,000. (Iquitos resident Alan Shoemaker quoted the Iquitos police chief as estimating that on any given Friday, 10% of the …