Rafael Chanchari Pizuri
Rafael Chanchari Pizuri was born in 1962 in an indigenous community called Chacatán in the province of Datem del Marañón in the Loreto region of Peru. For the first fifteen years of his life, he spoke only his mother tongue, Shawi. Then he went to school and learned Spanish. He became so proficient that he was selected to teach Spanish to other Shawi people. Several years later, a newly founded bilingual education program for indigenous people came looking for a Shawi person who could teach in the Shawi language; and so, at age thirty-two, Rafael Chanchari went to Iquitos, 450 kilometers from his homeland, to teach young Shawi teachers-in-training about their own language and culture. To this day, he lives in Iquitos and continues to work as a teacher of indigenous teachers. Along the way, he also became a médico, a specialist who heals people with indigenous medicine. He tends to a large garden of medicinal plants not far from Iquitos.