February 1, 2011

A Weekend in Huaraz, Peru, Day 1

This last weekend FIMRC organized an optional trip to the city of Huaraz, so that we could learn about traditional Peruvian medicine. We all decided to go, and were glad we did because it was an amazing experience. Huaraz is a smaller city than Trujillo, about 8 hours away and located in the Andes mountains. It's situated in a valley between two distinct mountain ranges, one snow covered and the other not.

Rural village in Huaraz where we saw traditional medicine. Align Center

On Friday night we took a sleeper bus from Trujilllo to Huaraz. These double decker VIP buses are a common sight in Peru, and are incredible. The have reclining seats, food and drinks are served, and there are movies (that may be less incredible, as the movies often play when you want to sleep). We 'slept' on the bus overnight and arrived in Huaraz in time for breakfast. We were met there by a Peruvian medical student, Jose, whose parents live in Huaraz and who had arranged our educational experience. Jose's mother is an anthropologist and his father is an author. His mother joined us and we took a rented minivan far into the valley, and then up a mountain. Our destination was a small village at the top of a mountain- it was a fairly remote Peruvian village, off the beaten path. The landscape was amazing- it was a scenic village of mud brick houses, flowers, birds and great mountain vistas.

Jose's mother talks to a local woman about medicinal plants.

We were introduced to the local healer, who explained Peruvian medical plants to us, and who was going to show us two traditional Peruvian medical ceremonies. The first was healing by Cuy (Guinea Pig), which involves rubbing the patients entire body with a live guinea pig, then killing the animal and disecting it. Any health problems found in the disected guinea pig are thought to reflect those of the patient (ie, if the guinea pig is pregnant, so is the patient- so they always use gender specific animals). The second process is healing by flowers, which is both diagnostic and curative. They take a large number of flowers, which are bought especially for the purpose, heat them up in a clay pot, and then rub the patients body in them. The pattern in which the flowers fall is also important, and the patient can't wash the flowers from their body for at least a day. The ritual also involves throwing the flowers at full force against the patient, much to our surprise. Emily volunteered for the guinea pig diagnosis and Steve underwent the flower healing- it was a fairly surprising experience for all involved, but very authentic and we are told still an important part of P eruvian culture. Many people, they say, will undergo one of these two processes before they will go to a hospital.

Undergoing the guinea pig healing ceremony.

After visiting the local healer, we continued through the valley to visit the ruins of a city which had been covered by an earthquake 30 years ago. The area was built like a memorial, with giant flower and rose gardens and monuments to the dead. It was eerie, but a beautiful place. It rained on us there, but we were interested enough to walk around and see most of the area.

Next, we went to a small mountain town with a nice central plaza and an ice cream shop. We watched them make the ice cream (more like gelatto), and then bought cones for 30 cents each. A few of us then walked over to a coffee shop. It was a really nice way to spend the day.


MSU CHM Saginaw said...

What an interesting experience. I can't wait to hear more about it. Thank you for sharing.

Carlangas said...

Hi I'm Pedro from Lima, PerĂº. I hope you have enjoyed your travel in my country. I would like to contact one of you in order to share information about healing by Cuy (Guinea pig).

Looking forward to hearing from you


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