Iquitos and Pucallpa, Peru
Deforestation, resource extraction, and Ayahuasca tourism in the Peruvian Amazon
Researcher: Nicholas Ringstad, master student
Ayahuasca, a psychedelic shamanic brew used by many indigenous groups in the Amazon, has become widely popular all over the world in the last few decades. Its reputation as a medicine and as a potent psychoactive substance has led patients seeking alternative healing practices and thrill-seekers from all over the world into the Amazonian rainforest. This growing trend has blossomed into a thriving industry that is very lucrative, which, in turn, has led to the founding of a vast array of centres that cater to the needs and expectations of foreigners. This development is both praised and criticized by various sub-cultures and groups, so I am interested in gaining more insight into this ambiguous phenomenon.
My fieldwork took place in Iquitos and Pucallpa in Peru. I was interested to learn about the Shipibos, an indigenous group who has become very popular because of their use of Ayahuasca, and their experience of meeting a steady flow of foreigners attracted to their traditions and knowledge of plant medicines. In parallel with my interest in Ayahuasca, I was also intent on learning about the Shipibos perception and experience of deforestation and resource extraction in the Amazon. To gain the necessary insight, I stayed with an Ayahuasca centre outside of Iquitos for six weeks and with a NGO in Pucallpa for four months. Both of the organizations work in unison with Shipibo communities while facilitating the accommodation of foreigners, so I was able to learn about the motivations of foreigners coming to Peru and the Shipibos perception of the topics introduced above.