Ayahuasca tourism must be understood within the more general context of tourism, a sector that “has experienced enormous growth in recent years. Some tourists come specifically to drink Ayahuasca, but others travel for other reasons and, once there, hear about Ayahuasca and decide to try it.
Human Development Index vs. Ecological footprint
«We should be in the green zone -low ecological footprint and some human development index-, but no country is there. This means that places like Amazon are becoming the target of corporations and other extractive businesses. An example is a devastating impact that legal or illegal gold mining is having in areas causing a serious impact on the health of the Amazon jungle and its inhabitants due to the use of mercury and other chemicals.
Mining also causes social havoc in the areas where it operates, bringing prostitution and violence to the jungle. Here is a terrible fact: the indigenous population barely accounts for 5% of the total in the Amazon region but represents 25% of the victims of violence in the area, many of them related to the protection of the environment in their communities.
Overrunning native cultures
“Indigenous populations make up 5% of the world’s population, but their lands are home to 80% of the planet’s biodiversity. On the contrary, non-indigenous populations have destroyed more than half of the tropical forest, and decimated half of the vertebrates and more than 40% of the insects, only in the last 50-60 years. This person should know that: “before picking a plant you have to ask permission and know how much you are allowed to take, and when you do, you have to say thank you. It seems to me that non-natives are not capable of saying something so basic: “please” and “thank you”.
“Sustainability” does not only refer to Ayahuasca but to the entire plant and human ecosystem that surrounds it: We must understand that, without the knowledge of the indigenous people, the plant is just a plant. If we destroy the Amazon we are also destroying the knowledge about the use of the plant”.
Ayahuasca tourism can have a very positive impact if it is done responsibly. Not responsibility from the mouth, but the heart. Everyone involved in this activity should be the same: centers, indigenous people, and visitors. The centers can play a very important role in communicating what is happening in the Amazon, how this temple where Ayahuasca grows is disappearing.”
Ayahuasca centers are mostly run by foreigners, who do not live there all year round, so the probability that the money they generate will leave the region is very high. These same foreigners are the ones who handle the marketing tools to contact the outside world, so they monopolize the best-paid jobs.
How can we move towards reciprocity in relations with indigenous people? By «going from “me” (my benefit, my work, my healing) to “us”, thinking about what is good for the community: empowering local communities, giving them visibility, promoting political change in your country of origin, and, above all, change your lifestyle because that is the best thing you can do to preserve the Amazon and preserve Ayahuasca».