My friend Fernando and I recently organized a sweat lodge (temazcal, in Spanish) for staff members at ECA. We arranged the whole thing with a local Shaman named Cesar on a lovely piece of land about an hour outside the city. I’ve participated in sweat lodge ceremonies before, mainly when we lived in Los Angeles, but this was my first time in Venezuela. What’s cool, though, is that the format of the ceremony was very similar to what I remember from the my experiences in LA. Our shaman here learned from his grandfather who practiced the tradition borrowed from the Lakota people in North America. I find it fascinating that here in Latin America, where the indigenous populations and cultures remain more intact than in the US, we would be practicing a ceremony that comes from a North American tribe.
In the end we had about 25 people join us for the event. Some people had no idea what they were getting into, others had a some notion; regardless, everyone showed their bravery simply by being willing to sit half naked on the dirt in a dark, steamy, very hot hut with their coworkers. Now that’s the way to build community!
We started with a yoga class, then had some light snacks while the fire keeper finished preparations. Then Cesar welcomed everyone and explained how the ceremony would work. In the end, everyone crawled out of the lodge with smiles on their faces. We then ate a lovely lunch and shared some music.
Since it seemed to be such a success, we might even do two next year — one in the Fall and one in the Spring.
[Photos courtesy of Fernando Garcia]