Request information

San Pedro, Cultural Heritage of the Nation

San Pedro, Cultural Heritage of the Nation

The knowledge, wisdom and traditional uses of the San Pedro cactus in the practices of quackery in northern Peru are declared as Cultural Heritage of the Nation


No. 000252-2022-VMPCIC/MC

San Borja, November 14, 2022


SEEN; Report No. 000673-2022-DGPC/MC of the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage; Reports No. 000008-2022-DPI-PRM/MC and No. 000699-2022-DPI/MC of the Intangible Heritage Department; Elevation Sheet No. 000645-2022-OGAJ/MC of the General Office of Legal Advice; and,



That, article 21 of the Political Constitution of Peru states that archaeological sites and remains, constructions, monuments, places, bibliographic and archival documents, artistic objects and testimonies of historical value, expressly declared cultural assets, and provisionally those that are presumed as such, they are Cultural Patrimony of the Nation, regardless of their status as private or public property; the same ones that are protected by the State;


That, paragraph 1 of article 2 of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - UNESCO, establishes that "Intangible Cultural Heritage is understood to be the uses, representations , expressions, knowledge and techniques –together with the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces that are inherent to them– that communities, groups and in some cases individuals recognize as an integral part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage that is transmitted from generation to generation is constantly recreated by communities and groups based on their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, instilling in them a sense of identity and continuity, and thus contributing to promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity”;


That, numeral 2 of article 1 of Law No. 28296, General Law of Cultural Heritage of the Nation and amendments, states that the intangible heritage of the Nation is made up of the creations of a cultural community based on traditions, expressed by individuals of in a unitary or group way, and that recognizedly respond to the expectations of the community, as an expression of cultural and social identity, in addition to the values transmitted orally, such as native languages, languages and dialects, knowledge and traditional knowledge, whether artistic, gastronomic, medicinal, technological, folkloric or religious, the collective knowledge of the peoples and other cultural expressions or manifestations that together make up our cultural diversity;


That, literal b) of article 7 of Law No. 29565, Law of creation of the Ministry of Culture and amendment, establishes that it is the exclusive function of the Ministry of Culture to carry out declaration actions, generation of cadastre, delimitation, cadastral update, investigation , protection, conservation, enhancement, promotion and dissemination of the Cultural Heritage of the Nation;


That, article 55 of the Regulation of Organization and Functions of the Ministry of Culture, approved by Supreme Decree No. 005-2013-MC, establishes that the Directorate of Intangible Heritage is the organic unit in charge of managing, identifying, documenting, registering, inventory, investigate, preserve, safeguard, promote, value, transmit and revalue the intangible cultural heritage of the country, in its different aspects, promoting the active participation of the community, groups or individuals that create, maintain and transmit said heritage and associate them actively in its management. It depends hierarchically on the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage;


That, with Report No. 000123-2022-DDC LAM/MC, the Decentralized Directorate of Culture of La Libertad sends to the Directorate of Intangible Heritage the file of the application to be declared Cultural Heritage of the Nation to the knowledge, knowledge and traditional uses of the San Pedro cactus in quackery practices in northern Peru, which has been prepared in coordination with the Decentralized Directorates of Culture of Tumbes, Piura, Lambayeque, Cajamarca, Amazonas and Ancash;


That, the species currently known as San Pedro involves the cacti of the echinopsis family, which consist of a series of varieties, of which the most important are those called pachanoii, peruvianus, cuzcoensis, bridgesil and terscheckii that grow from the south of the Ecuador to Bolivia, northeastern Argentina and northern Chile, and that in Peru they are more abundant in the mountains of the Ancash, Amazonas, Cajamarca, Piura, and Lambayeque regions, at an altitude between 1,000 and 330 meters above sea level, although it adapts well to the coastal valleys, where it was also cultivated in pre-Hispanic and colonial times, growing at a rate of 50 cm. by year. Of these varieties, it is the pachanoii and peruvianus varieties that are commonly used in the ceremonies that accompany the treatments of the so-called traditional healers of the northern region of Peru, including the Piura, Lambayeque, La Libertad, Tumbes and parts of Cajamarca regions. and Ancash. The use of this plant has also been found in the traditional medicine of the district of Colcamar, province of Luya, Amazonas. The oldest known representation of this plant corresponds to the formative horizon, particularly at the Chavín de Huántar site, in the Áncash region, whose culture irradiated throughout the northern and central Andean region, although its current use has also been recorded in localities of the coastal region, particularly in the city of Chimbote. The ritual importance of this plant is reflected in some of its many names, such as holy grass, holy thistle, beautiful huando, remedy, apart from the more generic stick or straw. One of the names by which it is known, achuma, and its derivation wachuma or guachuma in some texts, is of Aymara origin, which shows that the original extent of its use was much greater;


That the oldest representation of this plant corresponds, as far as is known today, to the lithic art of Chavín de Huántar, a formative culture that developed in the alley of Conchucos in the first millennium before our era, and in the ceramics of the Cupisnique culture, contemporary to Chavín, in the Jequetepeque valley; but its use is much older. Remains of this plant have been found in the Guitarrero caves, also in the Callejón de Huaylas, near the town of Manco, dated to around 8,600 years before the present period, the time of hunters and gatherers. In the formative horizon its use was already widespread; apart from the representations in Chavín and Cupisnique, traces of San Pedro were found in the archaeological site of Las Haldas, in the province of Casma in the Áncash region, in Garagay, in the Rímac valley, in the Lima region. There are also representations of the San Pedro cactus in Paracas textile art and in particular in religious iconography embodied in Nazca ceramic and textile art, both from the Ica region. In the representations of Moche and Chimú ceramics, there are also representations of their use in rituals both by mythical characters and by priests or officiants and in which a notorious presence of women is observed;


That, in the time of disruption caused by the Conquest and the Viceroyalty, the use of this plant was persecuted as part of evangelization campaigns. As part of this, numerous colonial documents make references to its ritual and therapeutic use, and how it was taking place clandestinely under the new context created by colonization and Christianization. This use is also recorded in healing rituals officiated by specialists who were directly defined as witches and, therefore, as heretics, in judicial texts from the north coast in the eighteenth century in places as far apart as Cajatambo, Ferreñafe or Cajamarca. ; Among the records made by Jesuit priests, its consumption by the indigenous aristocracy is documented in rituals dedicated, in concept to the patron Santiago, heir in his attributes of the pre-Hispanic god Illapa. They mention that the cactus, called achuma, was cultivated in the warm valleys and consumed as a drink in order to enter a state of hallucinatory trance, in rituals that were stigmatized as expressions of idolatry;


That, the persecution operated by evangelization made the use of this plant disappear from public light, going underground. The studies of traditional medicine initiated by Hermilio Valdizán since 1911 were the first academic works that described its use from the medical perspective of the time. In the second half of the 20th century, national and foreign researchers from various disciplines such as Douglas Sharon, Marlene Dobkin de Ríos, Mario Polia, Lupe Camino, Mario Chiappe, Moisés Lemlij, Luis Millones, Rollando Feldman, or Fernando Cabieses Molina, the latter creator of the Institute of Traditional Medicine in 1990, among others, pointed out the importance of the San Pedro cactus in the Peruvian ritual tradition, particularly in the northern region;


That, what distinguishes the ritual use of this plant from recreational use is the role that is conferred on it in the healing ceremonies officiated by master healers, in which they function as a means to produce a spiritual revelation that allows us to see the dimension of physical and mental illnesses, and therefore of the means to cure it. The master healer is the officiant of the rituals that operates as a mediator between the everyday world and the entities of the spiritual world, for which the consumption of this plant is essential, prepared and consumed in the form of a liquid concoction;


That, the consumption of the plant produces a temporary modification of the states of consciousness, and stimulating sensory and muscular alertness towards the outside world, which promotes a sensation of global vision of reality, as well as the perception of visual and auditory hallucinations . For this purpose, specimens almost devoid of thorns of a yellowish-green hue are chosen, which indicate their state of maturation, and with a greater number of striations known as "winds" that can reach seven or eight;


That, the thorniest and bluish-green varieties are called "San Pedro cimarrón", more used by specialists known as maleros whose purpose is to cause damage rather than achieve the correct vision of things that the most appreciated variant of the cactus would provide. It should be noted that this type of specialist, and the use of the cactus with the purpose of causing damage, are excluded from the scope of any declarative action as Cultural Heritage of the Nation;


That, to this differentiation between variants of the cactus, gender connotations are superimposed, being that the San Pedro with few spines is called "female" compared to the thorny variant understood as "male". Although these cacti grow in a series of ecosystems, those that grow profusely in the Sierra de Cajamarca, or in the hills of the nearby district of Salas, province of Ferreñafe, Lambayeque, known as “huachumales”, are preferred. Apart from their relationship with the hills on whose slopes they grow, it is said that animals still inhabit these spaces, which are given a strong magical connotation, such as the jaguar or the constrictor-type boa macanche, beings associated with the power of San Pedro. ;


That the use of this plant is therefore supported by a cultural tradition with a long history, accepted and agreed upon in the local societies where it is practiced, which shares a worldview in which original principles are united with some aspects of assimilated Christianity, and of which starts a series of concepts about health and disease. The consumption of San Pedro is only one part, even if it is the most important, of the healing ritual. This is preceded by a time of preparation for the patient, which can last from weeks to months, and which includes a diet that avoids certain foods, abstinence from sexual life, discipline in managing emotions that keeps the patient from being prey to negative reactions. , and a series of physical and spiritual cleansing practices such as bathing in lagoons located in the vicinity of sacred spaces such as hills and huacas, which are considered to have great power. In the ritual framework of the sessions, the states of consciousness fostered by the consumption of San Pedro must be guided and controlled by the master healer;


That all this complex ritual helps to differentiate the ritual use of this plant from consumption for recreational purposes, since in this case the objective is to achieve a spiritual vision of the surrounding world and, in this way, diagnose the origin of the discomforts that afflict to the patient. The role of San Pedro is to achieve, through his influence on the healers, a clear or clean vision of the patient's condition. This paper explains the name of a Christian saint given to this species, by establishing an analogy with the character whose attribute is being the holder of the "keys to heaven", therefore understanding the plant as an agent that allows contact with a dimension spiritual existence, through which the patient's discomfort can be diagnosed and appropriate therapy recommended. This state is also called huanto, derived from the Quechua wantuq, which means "elevated" in reference to the magical flight of the healer under the psychotropic influence of San Pedro;


That, the collection of this plant also follows a series of ritual procedures, in charge of the healer, aimed at preventing its qualities from being disturbed. Since it is conceived as the residence of a spirit with which it is necessary to interact in a relationship of respect, this interaction begins at the moment in which the stems and branches of the plant are collected. Before making this collection, they must greet it and pay homage with prayers, songs, ablutions with flowery water and tobacco smoke around the plant that will be cut, even blessing the knife used for this purpose. It must be collected in the late afternoon or at nightfall, on full moon days, when it is said that the sap remains in the high branches of the cactus. By these means it is achieved that the cactus allows to be used and that it maintains its qualities. It is important in this that whoever makes this collection follows a correct life according to traditional parameters. This is also the reason why said person is usually the master healer himself;


That, these criteria are equally applied in the preparation of the concoction made with the bark of the cactus. Thus, it is also considered necessary that the person who prepares it be the same specialist, or assistant, who collected the plant in order to allow its powers to come to "life" and to assume its therapeutic functions. Valid for this are the implements for the preparation of the concoction, such as the stove or the kitchen, which are usually located inside the home of the same healer. These implements must be used exclusively for this purpose, and preferably be new. The cooking of the cactus is accompanied by preparation rituals to generate communication with the entities involved, that is, with the spirit of the cactus, of the hills, and the saints that are invoked in the healing rituals. Two sticks of chonta are usually placed, placed in a cross on the pot, or draw a cross on the pot, with an old sword, to ward off the presence of evil spirits. One must remain vigilant during the time that this preparation lasts, reciting propitiatory formulas, and preventing the concoction from overflowing with the boil, as this would cause it to lose its power. The spirit of the San Pedro cactus thus becomes the guardian of the place where it is processed for consumption. The ideal cooking time is between eight and nine hours. If minor ailments are treated, a cactus with even striations can be used; if it is very intense, it is recommended to use branches with odd grooves, from five to nine grooves;


That, the ritual presided over by the healer is usually carried out in the same space where the cactus is prepared as a concoction, protected by the spirit of the plant, although an outdoor space can be chosen, near a hill or sacred lagoon, towards which orient the ritual table. The elements or arts are distributed on the table according to a duality criterion, in two banks or sides, called the curandero or justiciero side on the left and the livestock side on the right, each one with its specific functions and qualities, with the general objective of protection and cleansing of negative forces, and achieving health as a balance between the forces that govern this worldview;


That, the physical expression of this balance is the complex ritual known as a table, a space delimited by a woven mantle on which a series of implements known in northern traditional medicine as arts are arranged, chosen for a series of characteristics that derive from their origin, composition or morphology, arranged on the table as a cosmic map. The distribution of these objects corresponds, therefore, to a classification based on their function in the ritual based on four fundamental criteria: that of acting as protectors against negative forces, as instruments for defense and magical attack against these same enemies , as instruments for the extraction of damage or contagion from the patient's body, and for the appropriation and management of positive forces of the ethical entities that are invoked for the protection and cleansing of all damage. Among this type of art you will find metal swords, command rods, Christian images, rattles, stones, archaeological objects such as huacos or human bones, mother-of-pearl shells. Along with them there are certain seeds and plant species, materializations of the entities that make up the universe, of which the San Pedro becomes a vehicle of communication with the spiritual world that can only be accessed through the mediation of the specialist;


That some of these objects are chosen because they belonged to another recognized healer, to a deceased relative, or because they have been found in a place with power, such as hills, lagoons, caves, or huacas; due to its nature, also because it comes from an animal or plant with magical prestige, among which is the San Pedro; another reason is for some physical attribute to which a special meaning is given, such as shape, if it recalls deified elements or beings of flora, fauna, or heaven, or in human form, particularly genital organs; or by color, with red, black, and white objects being preferred, respectively related to blood or fire, the dark night, or purity; some attributes such as luminosity, magnetism, transparency or reflective surface, are also considered magical qualities. These elements are specific to each healer, being sometimes inherited from their teachers, acquired or sometimes found in sacred places, chosen for the material from which they are made, their shape and origin, and a criterion of symbolic analogy, according to which they will be arranged. in a specific place on the table. On the table, the elements will therefore be made of chonta wood, stone, metal, archaeological pieces, seashells to "singar" or sip the concoction through the nose, perfumes such as flowery waters, chungana-type rattles for songs or tarios, and images of Catholic saints with the same status as the spirits of the mountains;


That, the rituals are dedicated essentially to the healing of patients whose ailments are attributed to the action of negative forces, by spiritual entities or by the adverse will that has used another specialist; Under this conception, healing consists of cleaning such negative forces that are expelled from the affected person, and thereby achieving a balance of spiritual forces that is at the base of health with the surrounding spiritual environment. Within this conception, the San Pedro cactus is understood as a vehicle for the knowledge of the spiritual forces that preside over this conception of health. The table is arranged with its elements in two sections, in front of it is the healer, who acquires through the ingestion of San Pedro the vision that allows him to diagnose the origin of the patient's illness, as well as the modality that must be taken to clean himself of discomfort. ;


That, the brew of San Pedro is first offered to the cardinal points, to the spirits or charms of the mountains, lakes and lagoons, to the Catholic saints and to the ancestors; with the sound of the rattles, the singing and the calls of the healer and his assistant or lifter, the beings of the spiritual world are invoked, the origin of the evil is traced and identified, and the cleaning is carried out, with tobacco smoke, the sprinkling of flowery water, and the application of talc that will be blown by the specialist, as an act of expulsion of evil spirits and their effects, and the intake of infusions or concoctions by the patient, according to the type of discomfort ; this cleaning is conceived as the flowering, that is, the beginning of a new period of health;


That the inclusion of Christian elements such as images and prayers is a sample of how this tradition integrated beliefs from other origins and gave them their place in the autochthonous spiritual universe. This is the case of the San Pedro cactus itself, which was given the name of one of the fundamental saints of the Christian tradition. In the same way, this cultural complex has entered certain spaces in the commercial circuit and in the media, which has implied a variation in the principles that have regulated the use of this plant, in the same way as the relationship between officiant and pacientes operates differently in urban environments and under a more profit-oriented approach and tourist offer;


That the so-called master healers are specialists who act as articulators between a worldview understood as a set of spiritual forces that govern nature and the human world, between which a harmonious relationship must be achieved, cleaning negative forces and restoring balance. psychosomatic in the patient. The healer is therefore the mediator, officiant of the healing process; Although the origin, experience and local traditions give each specialist a personal stamp, they all share certain concepts, forms of organization and transmission of knowledge that allow us to speak of the northern region as a cultural area where these religious and medicinal practices are associated. to a series of exchange relations of products and associated goods. These practices acquire full meaning within a network of social relationships under an ideal framework of balance and reciprocity. Under similar principles, the rituals establish a relationship of respect with the spiritual world, made up of beings from the local geography, from the Christian religion and in general from the living beings of the surrounding world;


That, along with the master healer is his assistant or disciple, also called lifter on the northern coast, who carries out a series of tasks such as setting up the table, removing it, and taking care of it after the session. Likewise, follow the songs and invocations of the healer, making the rattle sound, raising the smoke from the cigar and consuming the San Pedro. The lifter is usually selected by the master healer, on the condition that he assumes this work as a vocation. the most common form is family transmission, and although it is more common through the patrilineal route, there are also women who have taken up this profession. Another way to find a vocation is to have recovered from a strong illness, or from an initiation dream, especially if a cure has been achieved through this means. Learning the principles and methods of curanderismo usually takes about three years, in which one must learn about the power of plants through assistance to the healer, have a good connection with the consumption of the psychotropics used in the sessions, the ability to achieve the visions that govern the practices of duration, keep discipline with their diet and behavior, and above all have the vocation of service in their work. When the teacher considers that the assistant has reached knowledge, he makes him go through an initiation rite consisting of an allowance with which he will be blessed, giving him the implements to be able to assume the rituals on his own and the elements to organize a ritual table, as well as prayers and advice to protect him from evil. Traditionally, master healers have two alzadores, but their number has been significantly reduced and in large areas where traditional healers are practised, masters have not found assistants to inherit this knowledge, even among their direct descendants;


That, the master healers do not form an organized or less centralized body. They are characters from rural areas who take on traditional medicine as a daily task, without necessarily being part of the local social or political hierarchy, and therefore do not usually go in search of media prestige or great economic benefit, purposes closer to the urban world where traditional medicine has had great diffusion due to the migratory process. The practice of curanderismo has been carried out by men and women, and under these conceptions it is assumed that an ideal session should be chaired by officiants of both sexes;


That the San Pedro cactus, by virtue of its psychotropic qualities, is known in this cultural universe as a means that allows knowledge of the spiritual world, which can only be accessed through the knowledge and guidance of the master healer, within the framework of healing rituals, distinguishing this use from any form of consumption for recreational purposes. In this sense, the ritual complex and its elements within which the San Pedro cactus has a central function, is the dynamic expression of a worldview that unites the physical and spiritual levels of life of these populations, and from which a comprehensive notion of health as a state of balance between these levels. The traditional healer, as agent of this complex ritual, has been a constitutive part of the social fabric of the rural societies where he has managed to remain, and from which he derives his prestige as a wise character in the community;


That, the traditional use of the San Pedro cactus is one of the components of the cultural complex known as curanderismo in the northern region of Peru, whose pre-Hispanic roots and Christian influences have been widely documented by archaeology, ethnohistory and ethnology. As an expression of various forms of knowledge of the surrounding world, it has assimilated a series of elements of very diverse origin, also making its appearance in the urban environment. For many towns in the northern region, this complex constitutes a way of learning about the world and the pharmacological properties of the surrounding flora, establishing itself as an expression of a cultural universe that has managed to survive all kinds of prohibitions and campaigns aimed at your demise;


That, all of this distinguishes the use of this plant from any form of drug addiction, recreational use, or mystical tourism, which decontextualize its consumption of its original social and cultural universe whose roots go back to the preceding centuries in which the pre-Hispanic Andean civilization, and within which framework he had no problems assimilating the meanings and imagery of Christianity;


That, together with the references cited in Reports No. 000008-2022-DPI-PRM/MC and No. 000699-2022-DPI/MC of the Intangible Heritage Department, the characteristics, importance, value, scope and meaning of the knowledge, knowledge and traditional uses of the San Pedro cactus in the practices of quackery in northern Peru, in the regions of Lambayeque, La Libertad, Tumbes, Piura, Cajamarca, Amazonas and Áncash, in the localities where it is still traditionally practiced; reason for which said reports constitute integral parts of this resolution, in accordance with the provisions of article 6 of the Consolidated Text of Law No. 27444, Law of General Administrative Procedure, approved by Supreme Decree No. 004-2019- JUS;


That, through Ministerial Resolution No. 338-2015-MC, Directive No. 003-2015-MC was approved, "Directive for the Declaration of Manifestations of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Work of Great Masters, Wise Men and Creators as Cultural Heritage of the Nation and Declaration of Cultural Interest", which establishes the guidelines and rules for the processing of the declaration of Cultural Heritage of the Nation of manifestations of intangible cultural heritage, corresponding to the Vice Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Industries Cultural declare the manifestations of intangible cultural heritage as Cultural Heritage of the Nation; as well as its publication in the official newspaper "El Peruano";


With the visas of the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage, the Directorate of Intangible Heritage and the General Office of Legal Advice;


In accordance with the provisions of the Political Constitution of Peru; Law No. 28296, General Law of Cultural Heritage of the Nation and amendments; Law No. 29565, Law creating the Ministry of Culture and amending it; Supreme Decree No. 011-2006-ED, Supreme Decree approving the Regulations of Law No. 28296, General Law of Cultural Heritage of the Nation and amendments; Supreme Decree No. 005-2013-MC, Supreme Decree that approves the Regulations for the Organization and Functions of the Ministry of Culture; and Directive No. 003-2015-MC, approved by Ministerial Resolution No. 338-2015-MC;



Article 1.- TO DECLARE as Cultural Heritage of the Nation the knowledge, knowledge and traditional uses of the San Pedro cactus in the practices of quackery in northern Peru, due to the complex series of meanings, values and associated social relationships, being the expression of a systemic and integral vision of a cultural universe, of pre-Hispanic background but to which Christian elements have been associated, within which this species is used ritually as a guide to achieve a vision of the disease and therefore of its diagnosis.


Article 2.- INSTRUCT the Directorate of Intangible Heritage, in coordination with the Decentralized Directorates of Culture of the regions of Lambayeque, La Libertad, Piura, Tumbes, Cajamarca, Amazonas and Áncash, and their respective communities of carriers, to prepare every five years of a detailed report on the state of the declared expression, so that the institutional registry can be updated regarding the changes produced in the manifestation, the risks that could arise in its validity, and other relevant aspects, in order to carry out institutional monitoring of its development and safeguarding, if applicable.


Article 3.- ORDER the publication of this resolution in the official newspaper "El Peruano", as well as its dissemination in the digital headquarters of the Ministry of Culture (, together with Reports No.
000008- 2022-DPI-PRM/MC and No. 000699-2022-DPI/MC.


Article 4.- NOTIFY this resolution and Reports No. 000008-2022-DPI-PRM/MC and No. 000699-2022-DPI/MC to the Decentralized Directorates of Culture of Lambayeque, La Libertad, Piura, Tumbes, Cajamarca, Amazonas and Ancash, for the consequent purposes.


Sign up, communicate and get published.


Vice Minister of Cultural Heritage and

Cultural Industries



Request information

Ayahuasca Retreats

An opportunity to overcome existential conflicts and to solve psychological and emocional issues

Sapan Inka Retreat Center
Ayahuasca Retreats in The Sacred Valley
Who we are?
Sapan Inka Retreat Center looking for an integration of ancestral wisdom from the indigenous culture of the Amazon jungle and the Peruvian Andes to the psychotherapeutic practice.