En Iquitos: Alan S. Arturo G. Marta Prada Plata, por facilitarme el texto de la entrevista grabada en la Radiodifusora Nacional. Dan Russell, por abrirme espacio en su sitio web. Stan, por la foto.
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Follow TIME Although his parents urged him to study medicine, Jimmy Weiskopf dropped out of college and in the s moved to Colombia, where he eventually began to focus on a different kind of elixir. The New York City native became an early advocate for the hallucinogenic plant mixture ayahuasca. Weiskopf, who has published a page tome about ayahuasca, was once among a tiny coterie of foreigners using the potion, but these days he has lots of company. Sting and Tori Amos have admitted sampling it in Latin America, where it is legal, as has Paul Simon, who chronicled the experience in his song "Spirit Voices.
Drinking a few ounces of the sludgy brown liquid usually leads to a violent purge from both ends of the body. Beat Generation novelist William Burroughs, seeking to get high on Colombian ayahuasca in the early s, described hurling himself against a tree and barfing six times. Sting, in a Rolling Stone interview, made clear that ayahuasca is no party drug. The agony, Weiskopf says, is part of the allure. But traditional use of the plant potion is permitted in much of South America.
Its mecca is the Peruvian city of Iquitos, which hosts the annual International Amazonian Shamanism Conference and is home to about a dozen lodges that cater to curious foreigners. At first, local residents feared that a flood of stoned beatniks would turn Iquitos into an unruly rain-forest Woodstock. These are professional people. After receiving the title of master shaman, Souther set up Blue Morpho, a collection of charming thatch-roofed huts and nature trails with a ceremonial roundhouse where Souther offers ayahuasca sessions for a mostly U.
As the only full-fledged gringo shaman in the Peruvian Amazon, Souther is a natural interpreter for tourists navigating the mysteries of traditional Indian culture and its sacred plants.
Some experiment with ayahuasca to address emotional, physical or psychological problems that Western medicine has failed to alleviate. Others hope to time-travel in order to confront childhood traumas. Some even view ayahuasca as a way to kick their addiction to prescription drugs.
Although traditional-medicine practices had been waning in some Indian communities in Latin America, ayahuasca tourism has helped spark a revival, as guiding foreigners through the ceremonies can provide a decent income for shamans.
The business has become so popular that at the airports in Iquitos and the Colombian Amazon city of Leticia, locals trying to drum up clients for freelance medicine men stand outside the terminals shouting "Ayahuasca!
And, Souther says, mixed with certain foods or recreational drugs like cocaine, ayahuasca can be toxic, even fatal. Despite these provisos, Weiskopf, who says he has taken the tonic hundreds of times "with everyone from guerrillas to government ministers," remains a passionate advocate for ayahuasca.
A growing flock of travelers are heading to Latin America to explore the experience for themselves.
Down the Amazon in Search of Ayahuasca