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Sunday, 23 August 2009

New books!

I recently got back from Perú where I attended the Congreso Internacional de Medicinas Tradiconales, Interculturalidad, y Salud Mental. I put a couple of days away during the trip to visit the library of the CAAAP - Centro Amazónico de Antropología y Aplicación Práctica in Lima. I was looking for some hard to find books that I knew were there. Unfortunately the first day the Xerox machine was out of order, and the second day the Xerox was fixed, but the librarian was out of order (sick at home).

So I bought a bunch of their publications instead. Here's a partial list:

Buscando Nuestras Raices – Cosmovisión Chayahuita. This is a *very* special book. In anthropology you usually get books written by people who spent a few months -a few years at most- living with a certain group, and then incorporate what they observed inside some sort of theoretical fame. This book is different in every way: It was collected by a María Dolores García Tomás, a nun who has spent most of her life with the Chayahuitas. It represents an encyclopedic compilation of Chayahuita songs, legends, myths and history. A true work of love, the materials are left to speak for themselves, there is no theoretical interpretations. The oral traditions were recorded and transcribed, first in Chayahuita language, then there is a direct word by word translation (which will make you appreciate what a strange grammar it has) finally there is a liberal translation into Spanish. The transcripts are accompanied by drawings made by Chayahuita youths. It was thanks to this book that I discovered that Icaros are not restricted to ayahuasca. There’s icaros for everything! For a girl’s first menstruation, for the newlyweds first day, for cleaning out the chacra. Everything is contained within the songs; they are a moral code, pedagogy, a history. I was truly moved by some of these transcriptions, reading them was like watching a culture open up before me. Unfortunately I only have 2 of the 7 volumes, and the series is long out of print.

El aprendizaje de las plantas - Germán Zulaga. We recorded a fantastic interview with Dr. Zuluaga during the conference. His curriculum is too long to list here; I'll just say that he’s been building bridges between western and indigenous medicines for more than 20 years, while keeping some of the highest ethical standards I’ve ever encountered in this field. That man is the anti-appropriator, I became an instant fan. He´s president of CEMI, they do a lot of good work. I will write more about him soon.

Duik Muun – A bilingual compilation of Aguaruna myths and legends, with drawings and some exercises. Published 30 years ago, it looks like it was conceived as a textbook for Aguaruna youths.

El poder del amor, poder, conocimiento y moralidad entre los Amuesha de la selva central del Perú. Fernando Santos Granero. A study about one of the few Amazonian societies who have priesthood, who in turn choose the military leaders. With that structure in place what’s remarkable is the fact that they didn’t develop the kind of centralist and authoritarian character of the Andes societies. The reason for this is in the form in which power is exercised, hence the name of the book: the power of love. I’ve read a bit here and there, looks very interesting.

Tanteo puntun chaykuna valen. Las cosas valen cuando están en su punto de equilibrioCiprian Phuturi Suni. A bilingual transcription of the life story of the oldest man in Willoq, a community in Ollantaytambo (Cusco). Again, I’ve only skimmed it, but so far it is a really beautiful text (and I don’t say this lightly), the language is simply astounding.

Sueños Amazónicos. Un programa de salud indígena en la selva peruana. The book (which can be bought in English here) describes an ongoing project to establish an community health system based on traditional medicine. Organized by AIDESEP (whose leaders are now infamously in exile) and the Danish NGO Noreco, the book is a choral work that collects the testimonies of organizers, curanderos, nurses, and doctors. All I can say is that I learned a lot, A LOT, from this book. Well worth it. IMHO every westerner dreaming of going deep in the jungle to find a maestro shaman should be forced to read this book first, at least they´d get an idea what those communities are really like, and the kind of day to day problems a real indigenous curandero faces.
The project is now in its 15th year. Here is a documentary about the first graduated class of indigenous intercultural health promoters.

Ver, Saber, PoderJean Pierre Chaumeil. I’d been after this book for a number years, as it is often cited in the bibliographies of other books. All I know is that it’s about Yagua shamanism.

Los Dueños de los Astros AjenosPercy Vilchez Vela. I don´t quite know what to make of this book, seems ambitious, a part-essay part-novel review of the last 400 years of Amazonian colonization

Pensar en el Otro, entre los Huni Kuin de la Amazonía Peruana - Patrick Deshayes. I was familiar with Deshayes because he directed a documentary about the Barquinha ayahuasca church in Rio Branco (The doc can be seen in its entirety here) The book is about the Huni Kuin, of whom I´ve posted before, and will post again as soon as I finish it.

Yachag Sami YachchinaAlfonso chango. Illustrated shamanic lore. Here´s an example ->

Schiwiar, identidad étinca y cambio en el río Corrientes – Charlotte Seymour Smith. The Schiwar are a jibaroan group living near the Ecuador border. That is all I have read do far.

¡Zamba, pégale tres golpes a la piedra! Testimonio personal en una mesa curandera - Mabel Sarco. As the title says, a personal testimony of Andean curanderismo.

Cocaina, fiebre del oro blanco en PerúEduardo Morales. A scholarly, but readable, first-hand description of the process of coca production, one of those books that really make you understand.

El tigre y la anaconda. Another bilingual collection (this time Shuar) of oral traditions for the purpose of teaching the young. You know with a name like it has to touch on shamanism, and indeed it does. Published by the Abya Yala powerhouse, (although my view of their output has changed somewhat after reading I am Tsunki I’ll have to post about that one day.)

Additionally I there´s a book about cuy curanderismo, another book about Chayahuitas that I can´t find right now, a new compilation by Bia Labate, a short history of pre-Columbian Ecuador, and El primer Mestizaje, which apparently holds "the key to understanding the Mesoamerican past"... i don´t want to doubt, but that is a bold statement.

Looks like my reading is set 'till the winter!

For those interested in visiting the CAAP library it opens
mon-fri 9.00 a.m. - 1.00 p.m. and 2: 00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Av. Gonzales Prada 626,
Magdalena del Mar
Telf.: 461 5223, 460 0763- Anexo. 205, 209

The other great library in Lima is at the Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos they have amazing stuff, such as this (notice the year!)
mon-fri 9.00 a.m. - 1.00 p.m. and 2: 00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Avenida Arequipa 4595 2º Piso
Teléfono 511 243-6090

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