|Maximo Vicente, Mariano's grandson, standing by a |
swollen, scarred trunk near a Cordia patch.
For scientists, the clearings in the forest understory around patches of Cordia are caused by a mutualistic relationship with the ants. Cordia plants provide the ant colony with hollow branch nodes for nesting and bristly corridors along twigs and leaves for protection, while the ants use their strong mandibles and acidic secretions to clear away competing vegetation. Local Quechua-speaking colonists refer to the clearings as “Devil’s gardens” (supay chacra). For the Matsigenka, these clearings are the work of spirits known as Sangariite, which means ‘Pure’ or ‘Invisible Ones’. Matsigenka shamans like Mariano come to these spirit clearings and consume powerful narcotics and hallucinogens such as tobacco paste, ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis), or the Datura-like toé (Brugmansia).