Matico: herbal COVID-19 treatment with benefits

The word’s on everybodies lips here in Cusco.


Matico is a tropical tree which is believed to have healing characteristics by the native people of the Amazon jungle in Peru. In recent weeks word has been spreading like wildfire throughout the Cusco region that Matico prevents and heals Covid-19. I was going to write about Matico, take some nice pictures, make some silly jokes. Matico is also believed to be an aphrodisiac. Origin of the rumor on Facebook. Quarantine, aphrodisiac, Facebook, you see where that was going.

Alas there will be no silly jokes, just a picture of a glass of Matico drink and some lines of Go code. The healthcare system in Cusco has collapsed, all the news is bad. Decades of institutional failure have caught up with Peru in the Covid-19 crisis and frankly I find work the easiest thing to deal with right now. The time just doesn’t seem right for silly jokes.


I’m not into herbal supplements but if you are, you might try my friend Colin at Peruvian Naturals. All legit too.

Iquitos Peru possibly the first region with demonstrated herd immunity (Covid-19)

Excellent report in La Republica today. The results are preliminary but there appears to be a strong degree of confidence:

  • 71% of the population show presence of Covid-19 antibodies, 22% IgM (active infection) and 49% IgG (previously infected).
  • Hospitalizations have dropped 90% from the earlier peak of the crisis in Iquitos.

Other areas of Peru, including here in Cusco, appear to be just now entering into the worst of the Covid-19 crisis, which is noteworthy because containment measures have been the same throughout Peru but the epidemic appears to have moved in waves throughout different areas of the country.

Why my kids are not participating in the debate about race in America

My kids’ school held some debates last week about police brutality and racial injustice in the US. My kids did not participate. Don’t get me wrong, these are events that need to be discussed. The killing of an innocent man at the hands of police, the culture of policing in the United States, the underlying social and economic issues. The fact that the way of life of the economically suffering has been criminalized to a substantial degree. All that and more needs to be discussed, just not by 11 year old kids in Peru.

I lived in the US for the better part of 15 years, came of age there really. Unlike most people outside looking in I have a pretty good idea of the realities in the US. I also have a good idea of the realities in Peru. Decades of institutional failure, corruption, incompetence and yes, racism. You could argue that the institutional failures in Peru are in no small part due to racism among Peruvians. Institutional failures that are now painfully evident in hospitals all around Peru.

If kids in Peru are to have debates on the big issues of our time, let’s start with the issues right here in our own back yard.

UNSAAC study of Covid-19 mortality rates at high elevations

A recently published study by Anahi Cardona and Manuel Montoya of the Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco (UNSAAC) concludes that there is a statistically significant difference in Covid-19 mortality rates at high elevations.

Here in Cusco there have been 3 fatalities attributed to Covid-19 to date but there is growing concern that the underlying infection rate is set to increase. Time will tell.

Stay safe.

Remnants of a boondoggle

A while back we took a drive behind Calca. We were just driving around the countryside with no particular place to go when we stumbled upon an unusual sight: the groundwork for what was supposed to be the Southern Camisea natural gas pipeline, passing a stone’s throw behind a small settlement.

The homes in this rural area are barely more than mud block huts with straw roofs. There are no paved roads, little if any health care infrastructure, and teachers from the city barely show up a few days a week to teach in the nearest schools. Yet somehow the powers that be thought that running a gas pipeline from pristine jungle over the Andes mountains was the best way to invest in the future of Peru. The powers that be in Peru during the first 2 decades of the 21st century sure loved their so-called “mega-projects”, with the most infamous of course the Interoceanic highway.

Eventually the Southern natural gas pipeline got cancelled in the fallout of the Odebrecht scandal, which it should be noted would have never existed if it were not for a court case in the US.

Now I hear she’s got a house with a fair view

The old house of my wife’s maternal grandmother, overlooking the main square in Accha. In the mountain you can see the so called “Accha Sihuina”, the pregnant woman laying down. In the old days the Incas believed the Apus (mountains) were the home of the Gods or had mythical powers. Even today the people of Accha believe the Sihuina looks out over them and some bring her offerings from time to time.

Suspected Covid-19 fatalities left to rot in Cusco (Updated)

Allegedly, unconfirmed, and I very much hope it isn’t true but word reaches that the corpse of a person who died several days ago here in Cusco has still not been removed from the home where the person passed. I cannot confirm this is true but the source is not an internet rumor.

There have been various other reports, some confirmed, of people with symptoms seeking help to no avail. Hope for a miracle.

Update 4/9: Authorities have now formally denied this was happening and it appears the deceased person did not have Covid-19. People remain nervous about the lack of resources to fight the pandemic. As of yesterday, fewer than 400 Covid-19 tests had been administered in Cusco.

Covid-19 transparency, please.

Forget about the wild conspiracies, I’m not going there. But I think as a society we can’t make smart decisions if we don’t have real data. Copy and paste this and email it to your local newspaper or civil registry office. It’s a sample SQL query that would show year-over-year nr. of death certificates issued by fiscal week.

Even with the inherent lag of counting deaths, I think this would provide a much clearer picture of the onset and evolution of the epidemic than most visualizations I’ve seen elsewhere. You pay taxes, you have a right to know.

-- YoY change by fiscal week.
    my_2019_data.fiscal_week AS fiscal_week, 
    my_2019_data.nr_death_certificates AS 2019_deaths,
    my_2020_data.nr_death_certificates AS 2020_deaths,
    CASE WHEN my_2020_data.nr_death_certificates IS NOT NULL THEN to_char( (my_2020_data.nr_death_certificates::numeric - my_2019_data.nr_death_certificates::numeric) / (my_2019_data.nr_death_certificates::numeric / 100::numeric), '999D99' ) ELSE NULL END AS yoy_change_2019_2020 
  ( SELECT fw AS fiscal_week, count(death_certificates) AS nr_death_certificates 
      ( SELECT extract(week FROM date_deceased) AS fw, * 
        FROM my_public_records.death_certificates
        WHERE death_certificates.date_deceased >= '2019-01-01'::date
        AND death_certificates.date_deceased < '2020-01-01'::date
      ) mydata_19
    GROUP BY fw 
    ORDER BY fw 
  ) my_2019_data
  ( SELECT fw AS fiscal_week, count(death_certificates) AS nr_death_certificates 
      ( SELECT extract(week FROM date_deceased) AS fw, * 
        FROM my_public_records.death_certificates
        WHERE death_certificates.date_deceased >= '2020-01-01'::date
        AND death_certificates.date_deceased < '2021-01-01'::date
      ) mydata_20
    GROUP BY fw 
    ORDER BY fw 
  ) my_2020_data USING(fiscal_week);

10 year time machine

If you could go back in time and do just one thing different for every decade of you’ve lived in, what would you do? Equal 10 year intervals, I’ll start:

  • 1979: Tell my dad not to buy that Oldsmobile diesel.
  • 1989: Be less dorky. Stop dreaming about the girl down the street who didn’t know I existed. Eat different food once in a while.
  • 1999: That was a tough year. I did so many dumb things and wasn’t very nice to many people. Hard to pick just one thing, in hindsight I’d probably change everything. Go to work for Microsoft, even if it was already a bit late.
  • 2009: The year my oldest daughter was born. I wouldn’t change a thing.
  • 2019: While taking that nice vacation in Panama, sneak on a freighter in the Canal headed for Shanghai. Hitch a ride to Wuhan. Find my way into the Wuhan wild foods market in the wee hours of the night, check nobody inside. Pour gasoline everywhere and light that baby on fire. Who doesn’t want to be a superhero for a day?

Of course the question is, if you were able to go back in time and light the Wuhan stinky foods market on fire would anybody believe you did it to prevent a global pandemic that would kill thousands in the year 2020? Would enough people be willing to step outside their comfort zone and really consider that possibility? Even with the not-too-distant history of SARS, MERS, Ebola, H1N1 or the Madagascar plague outbreaks? If we knew then what we know now, way back when in 2019, would we be willing to change our ways?

How about you, what would you do different?