This Thursday, join the next virtual seminar dedicated to the « Triple Frontier » (Peru, Colombia, and Brazil) in which Kukama and Ticuna guests will participate to discuss the covid-19 emergency. Zoom Link: pucp.zoom.us/j/93694629955 (In Spanish and Portuguese).
Indigenous Shipibo perspectives of covid-19
A virtual seminar with Shipibo guests
The Amazon Anthropology Group began a virtual event series on the covid-19 emergency and indigenous peoples of the Amazon regions. During the launch of the first seminar, co-organized by Geography of Philosophy Project postdoctoral fellow Emanuele Fabiano, more than 180 people attended the event via Zoom as Shipibo guests from Pucallpa and Lima discussed looking at the emergency from the indigenous perspective.
“The virus arrived, but indifference, forgetfulness and neglect of our land was already waiting for it” said Jeiser Suarez Maynas with concern, a Shipibo journalist and health expert who, together with his association ARIAP (Asociación Raíces Indígenas Amazónicas Peruanas), is on the front line to support many rural and peri-urban Shipibo communities in the Ucayali region.
The situation that the Shipibo indigenous communities face today forces us to consider with extreme seriousness the speed with which the contagion is spreading in the Peruvian Amazon and to think about concrete measures for the prevention and protection of the most vulnerable population. However, as Jeiser states, the conditions for the pandemic to have potentially catastrophic effects are the direct consequence of neglect and abandonment:
Covid-19 is making a structural problem visible. If there is no specific policy on indigenous health, it is because it has always been an issue of discrimination and stigmatization. The most evident consequence of all this historically has distanced people from their own culture, which is evident not only in the loss of our language, but also in the abandonment of valuable traditional medical knowledge.
Communities are abandoned as a consequence of migration, and thus land is abandoned. This becomes an opportunity for economic interests of foreign entrepreneurs. Above all, there is an abandonment of community life and of the enormous “walking library” composed of an extensive amount of botanical, ecological, cosmological knowledge. Every day it is more and more exposed to a process of folklorization: everything becomes commodified and is no longer considered a useful resource for the health of the community.
In rural contexts where the few number of medical centers represent an extreme measure to which the population resorts for the most serious cases, the disappearance of traditional medical knowledge and its practices is leaving a vacuum that represents a direct threat to health and to the very possibility that this knowledge can be integrated into the conventional medical system.
We need specific medical care for indigenous peoples, a type of care that includes an intercultural perspective. Unfortunately, the representatives of the State do not have the competence to face the problem of health without resorting to a western view. The policy forgets the indigenous perspective. Now the virus is affecting us and neither the communities, the regional authorities, or the central government have the competence to face the emergency. No one is looking at the emergency from the indigenous perspective.
If it is not possible to speak of health in generic terms, then, above all, we must listen to the indigenous discourse — discourse that teaches us how we must think of health as a relationship that is strengthened through knowledge and allows us to take care of ourselves and others.
Jesier concludes, “From this emergency we have to achieve something for the indigenous peoples. Let this situation become an opportunity to change and value indigenous knowledge. This illness should make us understand that we have to promote changes and build an indigenous medical system that also knows how to revalue what we have, the knowledge we have, and what we are losing.”
Full flier details above. This event took place on April 30th, 2020 in Spanish and Portuguese. Follow GPP on Facebook for details on future events. Thank you to the Grupo de Antropología Amazónica at PUCP and special attendees: Diana Ancon Rodriguez, Jeiser Suarez Maynas, Isaac Alva López, and Majed Velasquez Veliz.