Peru: From the Amazon to Lima

Published on July 2, 2020 by

Two young brothers from the Shipibo people set out on a journey to the city of Lima. The modern metropolis stands in sharp relief to their lives back in the Amazon jungle. Will they pursue their dream of a new life, or return to their roots?

Nils and Gian are brothers, 14 and 15 years old. As members of the Shipibo people of Peru, their childhood was shaped by both indigenous tradition and the appeal of the modern world. Dreaming of a new life, Nils and Gian decide to visit Lima, a city of 9 million on the Pacific coast. For the brothers, the journey is an exploration of identity and their place in the world. But it also captures the larger dilemmas facing the indigenous people of Peru, and future of the imperiled Amazon rainforest.

Some 30,000 Shipibo people live in the Amazon region, making them one of the largest indigenous groups in Peru. Nils and Gian grew up in a village of 2,000 situated midway between the rainforest and the big city, but their lives are still largely shaped by tradition and the rhythms of nature. When the brothers decide they want to visit Lima, their parents fear they might lose their sons to the attractions of the big city. The brothers end up in Cantagallo, a poor district in the capital. What they experience there is a profound culture shock. But when they return to their village, the brothers are racked with doubt. What is their place in the modern world? Will they be able to make good on their dreams? Their search sends them deep into the Amazon region to Cumancaya, a lake revered as sacred for the Shipibo. Their father shares with them his knowledge of nature and the shamanic traditions of the origin of the world. For Nils and Gian, the journey is a transformative experience.

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