This is the story of a serendipitous meeting between two worldly adventurers who converge in the jungles of Peru to apprentice with an elder Shipibo shaman.
Elder curandero Reshin Nika (Juan Roque) lives with his family in Santa Clara, a small indigenous community near the city of Pucallpa. He doesn’t get very many visitors, and seemed surprised when I showed up to his home on a sunny morning back in 2013. I’d been traveling through the Pucallpa area, visiting indigenous Shipibo communities, and searching for the right shaman to support me for my first plant diet.
There are retreat centers all over the area, and it’s not that hard to find somebody to drink ayahuasca with. But it can be difficult to meet a the right shaman. After a few days of asking around, locals started pointing me the direction of an elder who they said was the most connected to ancestral Shipibo ways. I followed their directions, and made my way to Reshin Nika’s home.
I slept in his maloka (amazonian temple), and for three weeks I drank ayahuasca with him and his son Mariano every other night.
Reshin Nika, who is over a hundred years old, rarely gets visitors. That’s why I was surprised to find a couple of new arrivals who showed up one evening. “A special present for us as well”, Juan’s son Mariano explained to me. “He was an apprentice to Juan eight years ago, but we haven’t heard from him or seen him since then. And he’s back!”.
Juakim Vila arrived to the community Santa Clara via motorized canoe and motor-taxi with a load of goods: an overflowing offering of grains and sugar, a video projector, a 2 meter-wide projection screen, computer and cables, and a backpack that included a tent for him to stay in.
Juakim had come for a visit, but also to show a film to the community. During the eight years that he had been away, Juakim had created a documentary, much of which focuses on our maestro, Reshin Nika, his family, the community of Santa Clara, and the importance that ayahuasca has to their way of life.
In a more general sense “Jueces de la Historia: Testigos de Panamericana”(The Judges of History: Pan-American Witnesses), is about indigenous cultures of the Americas, and the cultural and environmental destruction that is happening across the continent. To watch the documentary, click here (sorry mono-lingual English speakers, it’s in Spanish).
Juakim’s visit was short. He spent the next day visiting with friends from the community. That night, Juakim, myself, our maestro Reshin Nika, and Juan’s son Mariano drank ayahuasca together inside of Reshin Nika’s maloka. The next morning, after the family invited him to breakfast, he was on his way out.
Regardless, it was obvious that the visit was really important to Juakim. “you are the greatest, Papa. I hope you know that during the last eight years, I’ve thought about you every single day. Every day.” Juakim told our maestro while showing him the book of poetry he had just published, inside of which was a poem “the psychonaut”, which was written about, and dedicated to maestro Reshin Nika.
Before Juakim left, we sat down together for a conversation about his perspectives on the world and his life experiences. I am dedicating this blog post to him, because he is a fascinating and inspiring individual who has spent his life traveling all over the world, working as an anthropologist, a filmmaker, and an artist. And he has a lot to say.
Juakim talks about his first visit to the Shipibo community of Santa Clara, and the important relationship that he forged with our maestro Rishin Nika, who we refer to as Juan, his Spanish name, in our conversation.
Juakim talks about the plant medicine ayahuasca and potential it has for peoples’ lives.
Juakim talks about why Peru has more magic than anywhere else on earth
Scott Montgomery is a multi-medium storyteller and holistic creative, a travel guide and transformational coach, whose core mission is to help others to live authentically with purpose and intention in order to make an impact in the world. After earning his masters degree in creative writing at Arizona State University in 2013, he made the move to Peru in order to write about indigenous communities of the jungles and the Andes, and to explore what this might have to do with his own life path. These years of traveling and living across the country have helped him to embrace a more purposeful lifestyle that's guided by the values of collaboration, creativity, and transformation. To find out more about what Scott's up to and how you can get involved, visit his personal website www.voyagewithscott.com