Our first day in the city of Huanchaco, famous for their caballitos de totora and ceviche (of course), our mentor Douglas took us to the local market to meet Juanita, one of the curanderas Doug has worked with in his previous visits here in town. The Peru team were lucky enough to catch Juanita preparing lunch for future customers and kindly welcomed us to her shop. We were quick to find out many interesting things about her, one of them being how she gain her curandera knowledge through a near death experiments, which according to Douglas is a reoccurring experience many of these healers and shamans undergo, similar to a rites of passage, to acquire such knowledge. We also learned Juanita is a single mother who has worked hard to raise nine kids. She moved from a small town to a town closer to Huanchaco to earn a living as a cook. Juanita was kind enough to invite us over for lunch the next day to try some of her famous cuy dish (guinea pig), which I have to say has similar taste as chicken and is very delicious!
Meeting Juanita was the beginning of shared stories. The week after we attended a town meeting where people from Huanchaco and people from Huanchaquito came together for the first time to talk about the continuing concern on the destruction and elimination of the totora plant by the state, the same plant used to make these caballos de totora boats. The reason why these plants are so important to the townspeople is because much of the cities income is from fishing and using these boats. What is concerning is that throughout the years the community has seen a decrease in new and continuing fisher men but with the continuous elimination of the plant this decrease in numbers seems to be getting worse. After the meeting, we were lucky enough to ask some of the people, all older males, if we can interview them about their knowledge and use on medicinal plants which was our first pile of surveys done where we asked about their knowledge on “fright”, “shame” and “evil eye” apart from their plant usage. These surveys where the beginning of many shared knowledge and experience from both towns.