It was over July-August in 1955 that a pair of mycologists first took part in rituals using “magic mushrooms” with María Sabina Magdalena García of Oaxaca, Mexico. María Sabina didn’t ask to be thrust into the spotlight, or to be a counterculture icon--but it came nonetheless two summers later, when an article about the experience was published in Life. We celebrate her contributions to humanity despite the labels, fanfare and burdens that exploded upon her thereafter. She did what she believed in -- that simple nature is rare these days -- evident even up until her final days as she never “cashed in” -- but rather, served others to the point of financial and physical ruin.
To be clear: our cover image depicts María Sabina smoking a cigar, common for local women at that time. She was nothing like the hordes of hippies, alleged rockstars and other thrill-seekers that would descend on her village, whom she treated with unconditional hospitality. That hospitality would lead to her own community turning against her; her house was razed, her name soiled, her life ruined.
If there’s anything that we’ve taken away from her story, it’s that the search for enlightenment is important -- but never only for the sake of oneself. The tragedy is in what seekers took from María Sabina--but never gave back.
25 years ago on May 31, Counterculture Icon and "the most dangerous man in America" Timothy Leary passed away at his home in Beverly Hills, CA.
Although most widely remembered for his groundbreaking work with psychedelics, in 1968 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for minor cannabis offenses. He escaped, absconded to Africa, then was later arrested by the FBI as he laughed uproariously. We are commemorating his life -- and ultimately this moment -- with the cover of our current May-June edition.
His last words came about six hours before the end. “Why?” Leary had unexpectedly blurted out. There was a long moment of silence, and then he said, almost in a whisper, “Why not?”
50 years ago on March 21, Hunter S. Thompson and attorney Oscar "Zeta" Acosta arrived in Las Vegas to cover the Mint 400 desert rally for Sports Illustrated ... and the rest is history.
You could almost say HST left his own “high-water mark” mentioned in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, by being one of the pinnacle forces of the Freak Culture he helped define. Nearly elected Mayor in Aspen, he went on to obliterate the American political scene in writing for years to come.
For those of us who can remember his early-winter death, during the darkest hours of the Bush administration, it was a light going out. As if we’d lost our long-term caller-of-bullsh*t, the counter-balance to the Powers That Be, the last honest word in America. The deflation of his loss can still be felt, like an echo over restless water.