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Story Publication logo March 24, 2021

The People Who Talk to the Plants (Spanish)


A young boy lies down on the dirt ground with arms outstretched. He is wearing a white surgical mask, black shorts, and no shirt.

Addressing the use of traditional plant-based medicine is a gateway to the diverse flora that the...

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Community of Cashibo, Ucayali, Peru. Sanken-Runa (40) is an indigenous Shipibo-Konibo woman on the shore of a lake. 
Her father taught her to use plants to alleviate ailments. Image by Florence Goupil. Video by Teo Belton.

The communities of the Shipibo-Konibo people are located largely on the banks of the Ucayali River, one of the most important in the Peruvian Amazon, which has its origin in the Andes Mountains and then empties into the Amazon River. They represent one of the numerous societies of the 51 Amazonian indigenous peoples, with around 32,964 inhabitants, organized into 140 communities.

The diversity of Amazonian plant species is enormous, and there are still many to be investigated in their specificity and use within the Shipibo-Konibo society. An ethnobotanical investigation by the Masisea Research Center (CIPTT), led by Samuel Cauper, an agronomist, and published in 2018, identified 180 varieties of native flora only in the Masisea district in Ucayali. Of these, 70% are used by the communities for medicinal purposes.

Throughout the years, the uses and knowledge about these plants have been transmitted from generation to generation, from parents to children. Orality is the main source of the inheritance of this knowledge in herbalism. However, during the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic affected several of the oldest leaders, putting the continuity of dissemination at risk.

Read the full article in Spanish on the El País website.