VICTOR, TO WHOM HE HAS TAUGHT AND TRANSMITED HIS WISDOM, IS MORE OF A SON THAN A GRANDSON TO QUERUBÍN.
We have been greatly surprised by the attitude and centredness of the groups we have been with in Spain and Italy.
At Inner Mastery we interviewed Víctor Julio Queta Criollo, Taita Querubin’s grandson and next spiritual heir of his community. Taita Querubin is the principal indigenous leader of the Cofán community in the Colombian Amazon. Víctor Queta and his companion John Arcesio Ruano, the Taita’s Ayahuasca cook, are undertaking a great international tour through several of our centres in Europe with the aim of getting to know our epicentres and getting first hand experience.
What does being in Europe mean to you?
I came by invitation from Alberto Varela and I have to say I am very happy about being here and sharing medicine with friends. I feel very good and happy, I am being treated very well. I am grateful for this invitation, I know we have the same goal of healing and curing many illnesses.
What do you feel about the people you have found here?
I see that there are many people who are spiritually sick. I feel they are lost and do not understand what life is about, that they are attached to many things and can not find “clarity” on how to feel more free and happy with themselves. That is what we are here for with our medicine, to help and guide all those that need it.
What is your grandfather, Taita Querubín, like?
He is a person with a really good heart, he is a man that knows, who understands, he has knowledge about many things, he guides many people and especially his whole community. He is a person who does good by everyone.
What is the hardest thing you have learnt from your grandfather?
Perhaps the hardest thing has been to understand people around you who do bad things to you, there are people who act in an abusive way and it is difficult to find a way to understand and help them. Using the medicinal plant we have tried to help them and that is where we are at, in that important work. Another thing that has been difficult has been to learn the uses of the traditional plant medicines, but we continue working and learning.
How can Ayahuasca help in the West?
It can help a lot. Human beings are harming the planet, many people think they are doing things right but they are seriously affecting Mother Earth, Pachamama. I encourage everyone to come to Ayahuasa and drink her. I think if they drink her they will realise that we have to value the plant and try and look after it in the best way possible, so that there is a future for our children.
Is it possible to drink Ayahuasca without a shaman?
Yes, as long as this is with someone who has already tried and is familiar with the plant, someone who is completely present when looking after the patient. It is not good to drink the medicine without knowing what its real remedy is. When many people drink it lose control and do things that can be very dangerous if there is no one present. I remember one person who was dressed like a shaman. She wasn’t indigenous, she was white, she took everything off and walked naked out onto the street. It is good to have real knowledge about the medicine in order to drink it alone, if not it can be very dangerous.
Can a white person come to feel and understand Ayahuasca medicine?
Yes of course, sometimes even more so than someone indigenous. Today many indigenous no longer drink it, whereas there are white people who have a deeper knowledge of it and they value the plant much more than the indigenous. It is a plant that isn’t for everyone, it is very powerful, but there are some people who deeply understand and know the plant. There is no problem with these white people giving their own medicine.
Do you think there can be a process of dialogue between indigenous communities and people far from the Amazon, like Alberto Varela or others, that use Ayahuasca in a medicinal way?
Yes, of course. My grandfather always says that talking creates understanding, and if we talk and get together, we will clear things up, and go forward, I’m sure of that.
Do you think that the expansion of Ayahuasca culture in the West can benefit the development of your own communities?
Of course. There are communities that need a lot of help. We have a school in our community, but there are many who do not have anywhere to learn our native tongue which is being lost. It is very important that people in the West drink Ayahuasca and realise the needs of the indigenous communities and try to help them as much as they can.
What is the situation with the Cofán community at the moment?
Thank God, we are working bit by bit. Our communities need a lot of help for which we need help externally. At the moment, there is a project under-way to build a school. Right now, our school is a house, but more students keep coming and there is little space, there is nowhere for them to play games or do sport. We would like to have a good school where we can teach our ancestral culture appropriately. I would also like to receive help to build a good maloca (sacred communal space where rituals and meetings of the community take place) for my grandfather Taita Querubín. Many other communities, including white people, already have one, and yet we don’t, it is a very important place for our people. We also need help to fix some of the the roads that lead to our holding. Like the boundary that separates our holding from the white people. What is happening is that they are taking wood with machines and they are damaging the routes to our holding. In our village there are many things that can be improved. I think that it is necessary to sow Ayahuasca so that it doesn’t run out, since it is the fundamental basis for us to organize ourselves and create a work structure that benefits the community and our survival over time.
Traditionally the indigenous communities have not received any profits from the natural riches in their environment
That has always passed us by, it’s true. The big oil companies came, carried out seismic tests, afterwards they left and after a while returned, but we have managed to get them to consult with the community. Before coming into someone’s home you have to ask if you can or not, but many times they come in trampling all over the village itself. They are also building more roads and more white people are coming in and colonizing. These people come with different customs and knowledge, and our children are changing their ways of being, they no longer want to speak the language. They are always taking our riches, petrol, wood, animals… without leaving anything for our communities. The Putumayo used to be pure indigenous, Cofán people, now they are colonising us leaving us cornered in our “holdings”. We ask for more land, land that we can look after for the future. An oil pipeline passes through our lands, and the same guerilla made it explode, and the petrol ran into the earth below, contaminating all of it. There were areas were our village would bathe and fish and that is all finished. Watching the little fish dying and the land contaminated by petrol and the fumigation affected us greatly.
What does the Cofán community live off?
We live off “chagra”, the place where we cultivate banana, yucca… We also live off hunting in the mountains, although each time less, as the white people are coming and finishing with all the animals in the jungle.. These people hunt and fish a lot to take it to their markets, they kill fish with dynamite or with poison. We only hunt for our own subsistence. Now each day there is less to hunt, they have been scared away from our lands. We are engaging in dialogue to stop these practices, making them see the damage they are doing.
What role does the new Cofán generation have in your communities?
Some of us have followed the Ayahusaca tradition, living and working for the many needs that our village has. Before anything we want to protect our customs, our knowledge. There are also indigenous people who are ashamed of being called indigenous, they want to be white men, some end up in the cities begging and eating from rubbish bins.
¿What can the Cofán community teach the West?
We can teach many things, the most important is to value life, to look after Mother Earth who looks after and sustains us all. The West should learn not to destroy Pachamama, it needs to ask itself what it is leaving its children, its children’s children, what are they going to eat, what are they going to breath, in which rivers are they going to be able to fish and bathe, they won’t know what animals are, what plant medicines are…
Is the Cofán community vaccinated against avarice?
I don’t know what avarice means.
Avarice is the anxiety of having a lot of money and many things…
We know very well that not all life is about money, there are many things that money can not give you. My grandfather’s grandfather didn’t know what “money” was. But it is also true that in today’s world resources are needed to survive, as we can hardly hunt, or fish and we need to survive and money helps a lot, for a little house to shelter in, for something to give the children… My uncle used to say “money finishes but a friend stays” and that is the truth.
Which message would you like to share with the people that pass through Inner Mastery?
The message that I would give to you is to be conscious of life, to value the little that you have, to move forward with a sure footedly and in every way try to do your best by those around you. I would also ask them to help their indigenous friends with their community and territory needs. We need everyone’s help to live on and to keep looking after and learning from the forest, to give a future to our people, to our children, to our culture, that shouldn’t be lost.
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