In the Big House

Baribú Geraga ‘Gustavo’ Mejia Makuna lives in the Amazon at the southern-post tip of Colombia in the “Big House,” an enormous one-room oblong hut with a steep roof made of grey-weathered, interlacing palm fronds and a wall of wooden planks.  Gustavo, as he prefers to be called, is a shaman and political leader, with a great sense of humour. Tallulah snapped this photo of him being cheeky, showing off a huge wad of pale green, finely ground coca leaves – the basis of cocaine – that he had stuffed into his cheek. Sharing ground coca leaves is a sacred ritual. Among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, plants like coca and tobacco are associated with gods and are of symbolic importance. Coca also has healing properties. At the Journeys to the Edge presentation, I will tell the story of how Gustavo cured me of a virulent pathogen that afflicted me during the latter part of our trip.

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