Our first visit to Takiwasi, the center for the treatment of addiction that utilizes the methods of Amazonian shamanism along with Western psychotherapy, and its host town, Tarapoto, was many years ago, in a quieter age.
Susana had arrived long before me, and developed a strong affinity with the work of the center – its compassionate approach to treating addicts, its commitment to the study of the native, traditional medicine of the rainforest, and the unique character of its founders, the doctors Jacques Mabit and Rosa Giove. When I had joined her there some years after her first visit, she was working as a therapist in the ample, tree shaded grounds of the center, doing her dissertation research, and soaking up the accumulated knowledge of traditional plant medicines and shamanic techniques utilized at Takiwasi to heal.
Back then, we rented a rustic, but very cargado (i.e., spirit-filled), house, around the corner from Takiwasi for a hundred bucks a month, and slept on borrowed mattresses, cooked on a borrowed stovetop, and invested in a few pots and spoons. We were on pilgrimage, then. When we left the center to continue on to Mayantuyacu, we simply put all our accumulated possessions in the back of a pickup truck and drove into the entrance at Takiwasi, where we gave them away to the staff.
Yet even then, Tarapoto could be loud. Even very loud, both with the chainsaw grind of the constant motorcars (rickshaws drawn by motorcycles) and the blasting of the rhythms of Peruvian dance music late into the night.
Peruvians, like aggressive teenagers, seemed to live by the motto, “I make noise, therefore, I am.” But no taste for silence appeared to develop in them with age (We have observed this conditioning to extreme noise begins very early in this culture, and have the theory Peruvians in the jungle towns are, if not physically, psychologically deaf.).
Yet all these factors, and a hundred other details which we had thought we knew about the mestizo (“mixed blood,” i.e. European/indigenous) culture of Tarapoto, were sadly out of date upon our arrival. On the economic front alone, the Peruvian economy had gone through a boom since our last stay in 2004. Prices are far higher, and the dollar now trades for substantially less.
I had also not fully factored in our own change in status. By virtue of arriving with a three year old girl with the intention of staying in one place for an extended time – involving schooling, decent housing, local community and friends, language issues, reckoning with local diseases such as parasites, etc. – we were no longer pilgrims, skimming lightly over the landscape. We had become immigrants, putting down roots. Continue reading “Tarapoto Mestizo Blues”