A set of six new cooking pans is stacked on the top of the refrigerator in Angela's bedroom, still wrapped in crackling-new brown paper from the store. She is paying for them on the installment plan, and will inaugurate them when a new gas stove replaces her counter-top burners.

Angela's home is in Pamplona, one of the shantytown communities that ring Lima and house half the city's population. There, shacks like Angela's spring up from salvaged parts: old doors, used windows, panels of matting, corrugated metal and crating.

Grimacing, Angela's five-year-old namesake stands in the courtyard, scrubs her face with soap, rinses with splashes of cold water from a hose, and rubs with a rough towel. The little girl squirms into her uniform, a dress of pale yellow cotton with a white collar.
  Threads dangle from one frayed cuff, but her uniform is starched and ironed. She is clean, ready for school, which she attends from noon to five. Her mother has always managed to provide the hundred dollars required each fall to buy school uniforms and shoes for two daughters.

Angela's house is testimony to her progress. The front workroom has two solid walls, painted a peach color. In the back, woven mat walls give way to brick walls in the two bedrooms. The children's room has a bed for each child, and each bedroom has a television set. There are two electric refrigerators, and a boom box. And next, there will be a "real" kitchen and Angela will unwrap those cooking pots.
return to top
Mateo Arevalo says he is not a shaman---"that word is used by North Americans"-but "an onaya or mernaya (a practitioner of traditional medicine). My Shipibo name, Isa Yoi, means "Messenger Bird.'" Mateo integrates pragmatic belief with a spiritual understanding formed over centuries.   "Do Shipibo still put leaves on their eyes to see the geometric designs better?" we ask him.

"Every grandmother, like a baptism, puts piri piri plant seed drops in a girls eyes when she is born. This transmits the designs she will make her whole life."
Buy In Her Hands