Earlier this year, Sebastian Woodroffe, a Canadian man, shot and killed Olivia Arevalo. Arevalo, an 81 year old, was a Shipibo-Conibo healer and a a proponent of indigenous rights.
Woodroffe had spent the past four years in Peru, on and off. He had gone there, subsidized by a crowd funding campaign to learn about ayahuasca rituals. Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic brew made primarily from a vine that grows in the Amazon. A spawning eco-tourist industry touts ayahuasca as a cure-all for depression and addiction, to ground and to enlighten. They also say it is a crucial part of the ancestral knowledge of people like the Shipibo-Conibo. The kind of cultural memory that Woodroffe sought to extract.
In the tragic killing of Arevalo, we find Woodroffe and ayahuasca tourism in the center of an old colonial reality. Here, new technologies revive the ghosts of civilization: conquest, colonialism, slavery, mining, the rubber boom, plantations, missionaries, and loggers. Ayahuasca becomes a new product in an ongoing battle of civilization with the rest of the world: a relationship based on extraction. A world shaped and reshaped by a living history of colonizers reaching into the frontier to turn everything and anything into a commodity to consume. A world shaped by the entitlement of the colonizers.
A lesson that the rest of the world never gets the privilege of forgetting.
The book is just about finished, entering the editing stage. Should be out the same time as Black and Green Review no 6, within the next couple of months.
More info coming soon.