|This article originally appeared in
|Piranha meat: It can take a bite out of what ails you
|© 1998 Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division (“The Chronicle”), © 1985 - 2002
Hearst Newspapers Partnership, L.P.
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|After 5-hour trip into jungle,
I'm at home with witch doctor
The route to the home of the witch
doctor known as Flor is long and
difficult, but it doesn't discourage
Inside his wooden hut, a sweaty five
hours by dugout canoe and foot from
the Amazon jungle city of Pucallpa, Flor
brews his mysterious potions and
medicines for an average of three
"clients" a day.
"People," he said plainly, "they want
what I have."
They want it for dozens of reasons.
Flor boasts cures for maladies ranging
from infertility to baldness, from
alcoholism to poor night vision.
During a recent visit, Flor told me he
could cure me of whatever ailed me.
`"You have all your hair," he said,
stroking his chin. "Any fertility
problems?" I told him I was single, but
he wasn't deterred.
"Do you have problems shooting an
arrow straight?" he asked, a little more
desperate. "Do you make too much
noise when you walk through the
jungle? Do your feet sweat when you
Flor wasn't what I thought an
Amazon witch doctor would be. He
wasn't dressed in bright robes, his face
wasn't painted in cryptic patterns. In fact,
he was virtually indistinguishable from
the 60 or so people in the nearby
village of Nuevo Destino -- Spanish for
New Destiny -- with his earth-tone
clothes and high, Indian cheekbones.
His Spanish was fairly articulate, given
that it wasn't his native language. The
Shapibo Indian language is spoken by
most people in the area.
The route to his hut included a maze
of minor river tributaries -- some of
which had to be blazed by breaking off
or slipping under branches from
fast-growing Amazon trees -- and then
a muddy, hourlong walk along an
Flor's hut, on the southern edge of
Nuevo Destino, looks as if it grew out of
the land around it. Weeds sprouted
between the unevenly spaced floor and
the wooden-and-palm-thatched roof
seemed to absorb the tube of smoke
rising up from the flame Flor used to
heat the potion he was making for me.
The brew he concocted for me
included an ounce or two of piranha
meat along with a ground-up mixture
twigs, herbs, powders and some drops
from an odd assortment of bottles that
Flor kept on a shelf with the skull of a
The gritty potion tasted bitter, but
Flor and my guide urged me to drink it
down as they chatted in Shapibo. After I
took a few hesitant sips, Flor took the
clay pot back and smiled a toothless
smile. He declared me almost cured.
Of what? I asked Flor and my guide.
They looked at me as if I should have
perhaps asked for a cure for being
dimwitted. A few seconds passed, and
Flor spoke slowly. "You will find love,"
he said, "within 30 days."
That time has nearly passed, but I
haven't given up hope.
--By Eric J. Lyman
|July 17, 1998 - Page C-1