The first time I went to Pucallpa I met a painter, Pablo Amaringo, in his workshop, Usko Ayar. It was filled with enormous paintings of strong colors, images and symbols associated with an ayahuasca “trip.” Amaringa is continuing the tradition of the shipibo, the community of 25,000 people concentrated mainly in Ucayali.
The shipibos are a group of the pano family that lives in the small villages next to the rivers and lakes that surround Pucallpa. Some, like San Francisco and Nuevo Destino, can be visited and there one can see the beautiful art, fabrics and ceramics that are created. The intricate geometric designs draw your attention. These designs use as inspiration the anaconda, the mother of the water, the power that sustains the world and the hexagonal shapes that you see when you take ayahuasca.
Pucallpa is the capital of the Ucayali region and is the second largest river port in Peru. The area is accessible by land, through a 15-hour trip from Lima, by plane, or by boat, sailing from the Amazon and the Ucayali River.
The city’s name means "red earth," which references the color of the soil of this jungle city, on the border with Brazil.
Pucallpa is intense, messy and commercial. Its town square, around which trade and businesses revolve, is modern, just like its church, which is almost semicircular, and is adorned with several sculptures of scenes reminiscent of the rubber era, and has a huge water fountain.
Traveling along the streets of Pucallpa on a motorcycle is like adventure tourism. At full speed, balancing on the bike, you arrive to the main areas in a few minutes: the zoo, the Chullachaqui botanical garden, and most important of all, Yarinacocha.
At this lake, full of peque peque boats traveling along the water to see birds and dolphins, iyou’ll find many of the area’s iconic restaurants, where paiche, bush meat and tropical juices are in abundance.
In Yarinacocha the Shipibo offer fabrics, ceramics, seed necklaces and animal fangs. All of them dressed in their skirts and tunics where geometric patterns overflow – the designs inspired by visions of ayahuasca, that come to the mouth of the shaman.
Thanks to ayahuasca’s powers, this shaman is able to create melodies with these luminous designs, ordering information and projecting it as creative power through new musical, geometric, and odorous patterns.
These drawings are then sung to cure patients. The melodies, that take to the space, reach the women as they weave.