Vidal Jaquehua: Such tradtions need to be respected and understood. (Photo: WikiCommons)
This article was originally published by: Peru this Week, May 20, 2016
Ayahuasca is a brew that comes from a vine and once was only used in spiritual ceremonies however, with ayahuasca ceremonies being commercialized the traditions are somewhat changing.
Ayahuasca tourism has become increasingly popular over the past years, especially to outsiders such as Americans and Europeans. The reason why there has been a surge in people looking for this kind of thing is because some tourists do not just go to take ayahuasca to experience a spiritual awakening but just for the sake of getting intoxicated. However, this ceremony was originally used by the indigenous people of the jungle as an act of spiritual healing.
This has caused many people to start opening ayahuasca retreats used to attract tourists throughout Peru and the world,capitalizing and commercializing this ancient practice. As a result, some indigenous people have become angry due to the lack of respect and consideration for the ritual.
In one interview with Vidal Jaquehua, a Quechua native who also runs a tour company called Adios Adventure Travel, he made it clear he would not involve himself in ayahuasca retreats as he sees it as a disrespect to his people’s customs and traditions and such rituals need to be respected and understood.
Another trend that is happening is the ritual has now become increasingly unpopular with the indigenous people themselves, which has caused a creation of pseudo-shamans hoping to profit off the tourists. This can endanger people, as those pseudo-shamans do not fully understand the lethality of the vine due to lack of studies and experience.
One American indigenous rights group called Cultural Survival voiced their concern regarding the practice stating, “Ayahuasca is a spiritual cultural practice that is rooted in specific cultures and should not be commercialized and exploited, but protected [as] a private community sacred practice.”
Some argue that the revival of such a ritual is good for the region and is bringing awareness to forgotten traditions not only that some poor regions of the amazon have built an economy based on ayahuasca tourism.
However, this notion has been critized as many people don’t fully believe that indigenous groups benefit from the practice and most profits go elsewhere, so people become rich while indigenous groups still struggle with poverty.
One other concern is the idea of ayahuasca and the distortion of a tradition, some shamans for the sake of demand have conformed to a stereotype, misleading tourists and destroying the true value of their own customs and traditions.
Ayahuasca retreats are appearing in all parts of Peru and are practiced by groups of people that do not have any historical or traditional belief in the vine but are following the tradition as a way of making money.
So this upward treat in such retreats may benefit certain people and the region as a whole it does not take into account the social and cultural destruction it can leave behind.