Correcting the New York Times about Ayahuasca

Just as we were finishing up an initial stakeholder mapping and dialogue visit to Iquitos in August, the New York Times ran this travel piece “Iquitos, Peru: Wet and Wild” by Nina Burleigh.

We wrote two letters to the editor and they ran neither. We share them here to show we tried.

 

This to the corrections editors:

Dear Editors,

Correction: In Friday’s article “Iquitos, Peru: Wet and Wild”, it should be noted that Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) is a vine and the part of the plant used in ceremonies is the vine, not the root as stated in the article. Ayahuasca itself is not a hallucinogen as claimed in the article. Ayahuasca is almost always mixed with at least one admixture plant, usually the leaves of chacruna (Psychotria viridis) or other plants that contain the visionary chemical Dimethyltryptamine. Vomiting and diarrhea are not always experienced and do not always precede hallucinations, as stated in the article. Alfredo Cairuna was not likely speaking an “Indian dialect,” as he does not and has never lived in India.

Sincerely,

JW, Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council

 

 

This to the letters editor:

Dear Editors,

In Ms. Burleigh’s article “Iquitos, Peru: Wet and Wild”, her prominent and negative portrayal of Ayahuasca perpetuated biased coverage of one of the Amazon’s most important traditional plant medicines. A growing boom in Ayahuasca tourism means many more people are drinking this powerful brew, and yes, a few have ended up hurt or dead. More numerous are the Ayahuasca seekers who understand Ayahuasca’s minimal risks, drink with trusted healers, and return happier and healthier with mental and spiritual insights.

My recent research expedition to Iquitos and other parts of Peru leaves me with the impression that Ayahuasca seekers have considerable interest in credible ways to recognize sustainable and safe Ayahuasca tourism destinations. If a community-led safety and sustainability norm for Ayahuasca cultivation and use can be developed, then future journalists can write more about their insights from—rather than their fears of—this important part of the Amazon’s intangible cultural heritage.

Sincerely,

JW, Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council

 

There’s always next time to get it right.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. CIA Dope Calypso - Allen Ginsberg - EcoHustler - […] Interestingly, The New York Times still stands accused of misleading the general public about narcotics. Today’s schlock is focussed …

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Title

Due to sustained opposition from a small but significant portion of stakeholders, we have dissolved the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council.

We are grateful for your support in increasing dialogue, learning with one another, and raising awareness about safer, more sustainable, and more reciprocal traditional plant use practices.

For a summary of our work, please see our 2014 financial report or our Dialogues Report.

If you are interested in learning more about ethnobotanicals, please visit ICEERS.