Addressing the use of traditional plant-based medicine is a gateway to the diverse flora that the Shipibo-Konibo indigenous people have long used and protected. But today, this consciousness linked to plants is in danger of disappearing. 

August 3rd, 2020, Yarinacocha lake, Pucallpa, Ucayali, Peru
Celinda Cahuaza, a Shipibo-Konibo healer, standing on the shores of Lake Yarinacocha with the Yuna Rao leaves on her body. Celinda Cahuaza inherited the knowledge about medicinal plants from her indigenous healer father. The Yuna Rao plant she is using, is a well-known and important medicinal herb in Shipibo-Konibo cosmology. Its name translates as "Herb that Heals" and is used for fever and now for Covid-19 virus symptoms.

The epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic has moved to the Peruvian Amazon, endangering the lives of the indigenous Shipibo-Konibo people. Faced with government negligence over the lack of medical care and the only Amazonian hospital overcrowded, the Shipibo-Konibo created a group of traditional healers in order to heal their people with the use of their plant-based medicine. From thousands of plants, the Shipibo recognizes 100 species of native flora, among which more than 40 are for their medicinal use. This demonstrates their vast knowledge of the variety of plant species and their close relationship with the biodiversity of the Amazon.

However, in December 2020, more than 209 179 confirmed cases and 3 106 deceased were reported by the Peruvian Department of Indigenous Peoples, including elders and indigenous leaders with the symptoms of COVID-19. 

Ronald Suárez, president of the indigenous organization Coshikox, lost his mother along with seven other relatives due to Covid-19. He states that the disappearance of the Shipibo-Konibo elders is extremely serious because with them goes the library of knowledge linked to the use of plants and the biodiversity of the Peruvian Amazon. Like Ronald, many Shipibo-Konibo consider this situation as a genocide by abandonment.

November 12th, 2020, Calleria Community, Ucayali, Peru
Gabriel Senencina, a Shipibo-Konibo leader, crosses the Calleria lake to fish, after being under a strict 5-month quarantine, locked up in the city of Lima in the overpopulated Cantagallo indigenous community without drinking water or food supplies. In November 2020, Senencina returned to his community of Calleria to stay. However, there is no medical attention in Calleria and to access the Amazon hospital in the city of Pucallpa, the Shipibo-Konibo have to cross the lake and then travel down the Ucayali River for about 6 hours by boat. 

July 27th, 2020, Pucallpa, Ucayali, Peru
Anita Mori an elderly Shipibo-Konibo woman, sitting next to a photograph of her husband who died with symptoms of Covid-19 in her native community Bethel, located 4 hours from the city of Pucallpa in the Rainforest. Anita mourns the death of her family as she lost her brother, her son and her husband to the Covid-19 virus. As a symbol of her loss, and as the Shipibo-Konibo tradition dictates, Anita cut her hair and now dresses in black to mourn. 

July 29th, 2020, Yarinacocha lake, Pucallpa, Ucayali, Peru
Rusber Rucoba is a young Shipibo-Konibo and a volunteer at the traditional health care organization "Comando Matico", lying among the leaves of the matico herb. Matico leaves, also known as "Roca-roca Noi Rao" in his native language, is the most important medicinal plant in the Amazon region to cure respiratory problems and is now used against the symptoms of the Covid-19 virus. According to Shipibo-Konibo cosmology, the plants of the Amazon are like the doctors protecting humanity. 

July 24th, 2020, Yine's Territory, Pucallpa, Ucayali, Peru
A dying tree at sunrise, in the territory of the Yine indigenous group, in Pucallpa, Ucayali. In December 2020, more than 209 179 confirmed cases and 3 106 deceased were reported by the Peruvian Department of Indigenous Peoples with the symptoms of COVID-19. The Shipibo-Konibo see a sign in this virus that attacks the lungs since the Rainforest represents the lungs of the planet. 

August 1st, 2020, Covid-19 Cementery, Pucallpa, Ucayali, Peru
General view of the Covid-19 cemetery that was built in April 2020 in response to the large number of deaths from the virus in the Ucayali region of the Peruvian Amazon. The population, among indigenous and mestizo people, is unhappy with this cemetery and claims that it is a common grave since they are unable to locate the bodies of those killed by Covid-19. 

April 9th, 2020, Cantagallo Community, Lima, Peru
Juan Agustin, a Shipibo-Konibo counselor to the chief of the community of Cantagallo, poses for a portrait in his house. On Monday 11 of May, Juan Agustin lost his nephew, a cultural representative, who died with the symptoms of COVID-19. When I arrived in Cantagallo, I saw an entire community cry. Their crying was of fear because almost everyone was sick from COVID-19 and had no medicine. But also, their pain came from not being able to mourn their dead. Crammed into unhealthy terrain and with three deceased people by May 2020, the Shipibo-Konibo felt deprived of their right to a dignified life and their right to worship. 

July 22nd, 2020, Comando Matico Center, Pucallpa, Ucayali, Peru
Demetrio Mera is an elder of the Cacataibo ethnic group, also from the Peruvian Amazon. He left his community to travel for 6 hours by boat to the city of Pucallpa since he had the symptoms of the Covid-19 and could barely breathe. He arrived at the Amazon Hospital with the hope of being treated, however he was never admitted. When he resigned himself to die from lack of oxygen, the Comando Matico (a group of traditional Shipibo-Konibo healers) received him to treat him with plants. While the chief of his community died at the Hospital doors, Demetrio survived a very advanced phase of the disease and wanted to share his story with me. He accepted that I would make a portrait of him, but not before standing up with dignity.

November 12, 2020, Community Calleria, Ucayali, Peru.
Rosa Silvano Barbarán (61), a former Shipibo-Konibo healer standing on her medicinal plant garden. Despite the fact that during the health crisis, the evangelical church gained many followers from the Calleria community, Rosa prefers to take care of her culture, maintaining her tradition and continuing using medicinal plants just as her ancestors did.

April 11th, 2020, Cantagallo Community, Lima, Peru
A Shipibo-Konibo woman holds her ginger for a portrait. In response of the lack of medicinal care access, the the Shipibo-Konibo people found refuge in their plant based medicines to survive the Covid-19 pandemic. Ginger is known as "Isin Tapon" in their native language and they use this plant for its healing properties against colds and respiratory problems and as a preventive measure for the COVID-19 virus.

April 17th, 2020, Cantagallo Community, Lima, Peru
Jheymi Mejía Mori rests on the floor after playing with other children from the community of Cantagallo in Lima. With more than 300 families crowded together and in unsanitary conditions, it is very difficult to lock the children up. The Shipibo-Konibo of the community of Cantagallo are living a confinement that puts their health at risk and are waiting for the country's internal borders to open to return to their native communities all along the Ucayali river. 

July 28th, 2020, Pucallpa, Ucayali, Peru
On the night of July 27, 2020, Milena Canayo, a Shipibo-Konibo woman with symptoms of COVID-19, passed away. Milena was never able to be treated at the Amazon hospital. Ronald Suarez head of the Coshikox indigenous organization states that the indigenous people are always the last to be considered. Milena left her daughter, who came to light a candle at her funeral and then took refuge in her home. Against the protocol imposed by the Peruvian government, the Shipibo-Konibo have organized illegal mournings and funerals in order to accompany their dead as their tradition dictates. 

April 7th, 2020, Cantagallo Community, Lima, Peru
Pablo Faustino Díaz, a state nurse and a traditional Shipibo-Konibo medicine expert, uses Tobacco smoke as a palliative way to protect his patient against the Covid-19. In the community, he has managed to bring the two worlds together, using plants such as tobacco and occidental medicines to protect his people from the symptoms of COVID-19. 

November 20th, 2020, Cashibo Lake, Pucallpa, Ucayali, Peru
Gabriel Senencina, a Shipibo-Konibo leader, swims in the Cashibo lake in the Rainforest after being under a strict 5-month quarantine, locked up in the city of Lima in the overpopulated Cantagallo indigenous community without drinking water or food supplies. There, as a leader, he witnessed the death of 3 Shipibo-Konibo friends due to the Covid-19 virus. Only in July 2020, Senencina was able to return to the Amazon, his place of origin. I accompanied him in the water, just as I have accompanied him in his process of returning to the forest, and I portray him.

POY LATAM 2021 Honor Mention for Photographer of the Year 
Pulitzer Center Rainforest Journalism Fund Grantee
National Geographic Society COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Journalists  
Awarded with the Getty Images Reportage Grant 2020
PhMuseum 2020 Women Photographers 3rd Prize
Gracias a Gabriel Senencina y a Celinda Cahuaza, grandes amigos y guías Shipibo-Konibo, quienes me han acompañado durante todo este proceso. Sin ellos este trabajo no hubiera sido posible.