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Introduction (PART 1)

It is no means but end

We do not know when this story begins, or where. We do not know who understood that cooking ayahuasca stems with chacruna leaves would realize a powerful remedy capable of purging body and spirit to open a fabulous world of visions. Some say it was divine…

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Introduction (PART 2)

It is no means but end

There is no orthodoxy, nor regulating academy nor a controlling ministry. Each ayahuasquero freely develops his own knowledge: the liturgy, the paraphernalia, the speeches. Under the formal diversity lies a common body that is shared by curanderos...

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Chapter 1 (PART 1)

Joe Tafur’s metaphor

 

Joe Tafur, the North American family doctor, son of Colombian parents, has gone back south. He felt strange in a prestigious medical school in California, among students who worshiped Monster Vorāx (praying for the money they would earn, for the status). Is…

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Chapter 1 (PART 2)

Joe Tafur’s metaphor

 

Several people have slept in the maloca and they still have not moved from there when, at nine o'clock in the morning, the meeting begins. Patients tell...

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Chapter 2 (PART 1)

Retreat at Kapitari

 

At the age of 82, the mother of popular Cocama ayahuasquero Lucho Culquitón recreates, with her everyday work, a world that is coming to an end: that of the chagra, that used to guarantee the food supply of native families in this big forest. Knock down a hectare of…

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Chapter 2 (PART 2)

Retreat at Kapitari

 

Participants demonstrate a certain nervous anticipation before the first drink: some chat, other meditate, a woman is frightened after finding a spider next to her mat and spreads her fear to the others. There are five Americans, two Irish, one Israeli, one Brazilian... 

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Chapter 3

A touristic proposal (and some bad trips)

 

I venture to say that the commodification of spiritual experience is inseparable from its trivialization, which fits perfectly into the dynamics of Monster, ready supplier of new stimuli, experiences, objects, enjoyed superficially (and later something else, meditation...

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Chapter 4

Dark digression within Monster's dominions

 

Monster hates plants from the present-day and plants from millions years ago, those that after complex physical-chemical processes became oil and other fossil fuels. In the Amazon region he can free up his obsession to give back to the atmosphere the carbon…

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Chapter 5 (PART 1)

The village curandero Benigno Dahua also needs oil

 

Benigno is a good fellow. His favorite words are "buddy" and "correctly"; everything seems right to him. Benigno is sure that I know him through a website in which he appears, and he does not mind when I explain that it was through his nephew (whom he…

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Chapter 5 (PART 2)

The village curandero Benigno Dahua also needs oil

 

The ayahuasca plant, formerly abundant, has become a scarce commercial commodity. Hordes of eager and thirsty foreigners monopolize the market. The business of sales (inflation, shortages) flourishes: we agreed to purchase the vine of one of the few neighbors…

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Chapter 6

Products in the market

 

As Harry and Sam did a week before, I enjoy the beautiful sunset over the Río Itaya in the tourist waterfront in Iquitos, until I feel an unsettling presence by my side; a thief, I am afraid. I turn and find a dapper man, pristine clothes, neatly combed black hair, small…

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Chapter 7 (PART 1)

The sweet purge of the gringo shaman

 

Ron Wheelock, the "gringo shaman", is one of the few foreign curanderos who runs ceremonies without the help of a local maestro. And he is the most productive ayahuasca cook in Iquitos (perhaps in the world). In his home garden he cooks an average of thirty…

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Chapter 7 (PART 2)

The sweet purge of the gringo shaman

 

Ingredients and measures to prepare the purge "á la Ron Wheelock": 90 pounds of ayahuasca stems, preferably "sky", 10 pounds of huambisa leaves, 250 leaves of chiric sanango, 3 ounces of mapacho tobacco, a handful of bobinsana flowers...

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Chapter 8

Lucho and the spirits

 

The ceremony is about to begin. Lucho Panduro smokes and in doing so he puts an impenetrable electrical mesh around the temple. His second level of protection is a shiny black stone dome. It will be sufficient to repel the attacks of malevolent spirits but…

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Chapter 9

What the curandero cures

 

Juan Curico cannot hold back tears of emotion when, on All Saint's Day, he visits at Punchana cemetery the grave of his grandfather, Jacinto, who raised him. "My maestro..." he sighs with emotion. "The patients came to him and, oh my Lord, how well he cured…

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Chapter 10

Francisco Montes in his garden

 

Just one kilometer from this extraordinary vine runs the menacing Iquitos Nauta road. Francisco Montes embodies a dream: doors can be put on Monster Vorāx, the ones of Sachamama botanical garden, where plant life does not diminish. This ayahuasca plant…

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Chapter 11

Epilogue

...but I decided to drink one last time, two days later, in another center. I had a frightening experience. I found myself immersed in a spiritual attack directed against the maestro, who left the maloca at the beginning of the ceremony, and vomited, maybe took a shit. I…

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