Los Mamallactas

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October 7th 2009
Published: October 7th 2009
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To me, one of the most interesting things about the indigenous Quechua is their use of jungle vegetation for medicinal purposes. When I was with the Sani community, our indigenous guide, Miguel, would constantly stop to point out various plants and their medicinal purposes. I am seriously dumbounded about how they figured this all out!! So, upon arriving in Tena, I set out to a small Quechua village outside of town called Mariposa to seek out Don Casimiro and Elias Mamallacta.

The Mamallactas live in their "compound" on the top of the hill in Mariposa. When I say compound, I mean that all of Casimiro´s children live in various wood and palm houses scattered across their property. Most of the family had gone into town when I first arrived. I eventually found Elias in his house down by the river. We sat on his floor and discussed the history of his family and what they are trying to accomplish. Well, at least as much of it that I could understand in Spanish. Elias had actually worked as a professor in Ecuador and in the United States, teaching studying anthropologists about his people. He has given most of that up now in order to help his father with his shamanistic practice and educate the non-indigenous Ecuadorians about the Quechuan culture. His hope is to preserve a peoples´way of life that is slowly succumbing to the modern world.

Later on, the rest of the family returned with supplies for Don Casimiro´s grandson´s 2nd birthday. There was business to attend to first as a group of women from Bahia de Caraquez had arrived to seek cures for their various physical and spiritual ailments. The Mamallactas were gracious enough to allow me to observe Don Casimiro as he engaged the bad spirits from within their bodies.

The Mamallactas invited me to stay with them for the night to celebrate the birthday and I happily obliged. We all sang songs while the birthday boy blew out his candles and was the first (and thankfully only) person to shove his face in the cake.

I was in luck because it turned out that Don Francisco, the president of the association of shamans, just happened to stop by that night. I was actually able to watch him bless Casimiro himself with loads of chanting and spitting a powerful smelling concoction onto the top of his head. I was able to be blessed in this way myself but by Casimiro instead of el jefe.

The next morning I was happily on my way back to Tena but now with a little glimpse of shamanic culture. Muchas gracias al Mamallactas!


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