Manual Taricuarima, a shaman of the Peruvian Amazon’s Kukama people, says that when he attended patients here in the past, he would put his hand on the person’s head, shut his eyes and sense not only the seriousness of the problem, but also the spirits he had to summon in order to bring relief. Taking a bowl made from the shell of the fruit of a small tree called huinga (Crescentia cujete), he would go to the bank of the Marañon River, a major tributary of the Amazon, and scoop up water for the healing ritual as a symbol of his communication with the river spirits.

He had done that ever since his father taught him to heal. But then came 2012, and the rights to the port in this small city were granted in concession to private companies as a first step toward the development of a river- and highway-transportation network linking Peru and Brazil. Under the new regulations, residents of local river communities could no longer dock their small canoes at the port. Taricuarima felt his spiritual bond with the river had been broken.