Ayahuasca tourism is on the rise, for better or worse. Join experiential journalist Rak Razam as he meets the kingmaker of Peruvian ayahuasca tourism, Alan Shoemaker, on the Boulevard in Iquitos. Shoemaker is an influential and sometimes controversial gringo in the global ayahuasca scene and author of the recent Ayahuasca Medicine: The Shamanic World of Amazonian Sacred Plant Healing. Once a curandero-in-training with various curanderos himself, he was part of the early 1990s wave of western gringos drawn to Peru and engaging with indigenous shamanism. He has successfully run businesses that revolve around ayahuasca shamanism, from ayahuasca tour groups to founding the annual Amazonian Shaman Conference.
He has also founded Soga Del Alma - the Vine of the Soul church, been an exporter of medicinal plants, and been busted by the American authorities and forced to become a fugitive. And as the wave of ayahuasca tourism has increased almost exponentially in recent years, Shoemaker has played an active role, promoting his conference, shamans, and pathways to hungry western audiences. But what are the repercussions of ayahuasca tourism? What are the effects on the indigenous culture, and how do westerners mediate the two worlds of Grace & Madness?
Photo credit: Vance Gellert
Originally aired on: Feb 3, 2015