In the Upper Amazon, mestizos are the Spanish-speaking descendants of Hispanic colonizers and the indigenous peoples of the jungle. Some mestizos have migrated to Amazon towns and cities, such as Iquitos and Pucallpa; most remain in small villages, their houses perched on stilts on the shores of the rivers that are their primary means of travel. Here in the jungle, they have retained features of the Hispanic tradition, including a folk Catholicism and traditional Hispanic medicine. And they have incorporated much of the religious tradition of the Amazon, especially its healing, sorcery, shamanism, and the use of potent plant hallucinogens, including ayahuasca. In my new book, Singing to the Plants: A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon, I try to set forth, in accessible form, just what this tradition is about.
The book Drugs and Culture: New Perspectives, the result of a symposium organized by the Interdisciplinary Group for Psychoactive Studies (NEIP, www.neip.info) and that took place at the Universidade de São Paulo in 2005, represents an important push by researchers in the areas of anthropology, sociology, political sciences, law, and history to approach the topic of “drugs” from multiple angles and who have as their common ground the staunch criticism of the prohibition of these substances.