Millennial and Sacred Coca Leaf

Millennial and Sacred Coca Leaf

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By Dr. Carlos Terrazas Orellana

For centuries, coca was considered a miraculous plant endowed with extraordinary virtues. The panacea became a fatal weapon.

According to an Andean prophecy: the coca leaf represents for the natives; force, life, is a spiritual food that allows them to get in touch with their divinities "Apus, Achachilas, Tata Inti, Mama Quilla, Pachamama". While for his enemies, coca is a cause of madness and dependency ... "

For centuries, coca was considered a miraculous plant endowed with extraordinary virtues. Political-economic interests seized the controversy and penalized the sacred plant, condemning it to disappear.

When the Spanish conquered the Andean societies, they saw that coca was cultivated and attributed magical powers to it. She was intimately linked to the religious customs of the native populations. According to the legends handed down from generation to generation. Manco Kapac, "the chosen one" son of the Sun god, had brought coca to the men of the Altiplano. Its leaves served as offerings to the gods of nature. It was also placed in the mouths of the deceased so that they would have a better reception in the afterlife. If the use of coca, outside of this mystical-religious context, remained for a long time the privilege of the Inca sovereign and nobility; its consumption had become widespread very quickly during the time of the conquest. The Spanish did not believe in the prodigious virtues of the plant; They suspected that it was a work of the devil, due to the primary role it played in the religious ceremonies of the defeated populations. A Council meeting in Lima prohibited its consumption strictly, since it was considered a pagan custom and a sin. But the Spaniards quickly changed their behavior, when they found that the indigenous people were not in a position to carry out the heavy work imposed on them in the mines, if they were deprived of coca. So they decided to distribute the leaves to them about three or four times a day. They were also allowed a few short pauses to chew on their precious green leaf panacea. Until our days, coca has conserved its importance in indigenous populations, and traits of the religious veneration of which it was the object are still found, in the same way its curative and nutritional power was scientifically proven.

The natives always carry with them a small bag with coca leaves (called chuspa), as well as a piece of paste made from 'llujkta' vegetable ash. They mix a handful of leaves with a little ash, then chew it quietly, secreting a lot of saliva.Once ingested, the coca juice, mixed with saliva, gradually produces its effects: momentary decrease in the sensation of hunger, cold, fatigue ... Which explains why coca is consumed in large quantities by all those people who lead a sacrificial life full of difficulties. Coca leaves also serve the "yatiris" (those who know) to carry out a large part of their spells and omens. By throwing coca on a traditional fabric "Haguayo" prepared for this purpose, they claim to be able to discover the thieves and the things that disappeared. The person who questions himself about the infidelity, the conduct or the intentions of his spouse goes to consult a " yatiri ", who, after having made several mystical-religious prayers, gives him some coca leaves that must be put in contact with the people whose secret he wishes to discover. The leaves are then returned to the "yatiri" who will use them, performing a certain ceremony, before abruptly dropping the coca leaves to the ground. The answer depends on the way the leaves fall ... In order to have news of an absent person, to know their health, their behavior or their business, you have to bring their clothes or objects that the person has used: they spread them on the ground and the coca is thrown over it. It is preferable to choose old clothes that have not been washed, thus ensuring better communication with the people who used them, without them noticing. In the same way, it is said that the image of a deceased can be seen on his clothing. The chewed coca serves as an amulet and as an offering to the divinities. And spitting the coca juice into the palm of the hand, with the extended fingers and observing the way it falls, the future could be predicted! It feels bitter to coca, if some misfortune is prepared.

The traditional use of the coca leaf is widespread throughout the Andean region, since colonial times, particularly among miners, who dig deep galleries in search of minerals. Heat and humidity saturate the atmosphere, it is a suffocating and unbreathable environment. The miners, naked torso, cheeks inflated by coca balls, forget even to chew them due to the hard effort they make. Throughout the year, they eat noodle soups or dried potatoes "chuño", they rarely consume meat, very expensive for their meager income. But the price of coca has also risen. The miner is careful to always carry a small bag of "chuspa" coca leaves; She is a sweet companion that he chose and that also pleases "Uncle", the lord and master of the depths of the mines and the destiny of the miners.

During the carnival, Christian rites are mixed with popular traditions. Offerings and prayers take place during the two weeks that follow this pagan festival. Near the city of Oruro, rocks of strange shapes are erected such as the toad, the condor, the bull and the snake; The miners go to deposit their offerings to the Mother Earth "Pachamama": coca leaves, alcohol, cigarettes, so that the earth is more fertile. The ritual of the offerings to the earth, "The Ceremony of the Payment to the Pachamama", takes place at the time of sowing, the preparations take place in October, when the first germs came out of the ground. It culminates in the sacrifice of a very young llama, who must chew the coca leaves and be drunk with alcohol, then she is sacrificed before her blood is spread to the ground.

The community meets to the rhythm of a group of musicians, who prepared some airs and songs for this ceremony, in order to accompany the ritual celebration in honor of "Pachamama". Arriving at the place chosen for the sacrifice, the dancers go through all the surrounding plots. During that same time, a group of peasants is busy digging a hole facing the mountains. While the oldest of the community "El achachila" offers prayers and libations to Mother Earth. The party continued late into the night. It is the occasion for the elderly to tell their myths, their legends and in this way pass on their traditions from generation to generation. The sacred coca leaf becomes the central and spiritual food of the community.

For Westerners, the sacred leaf became the cursed plant:
Coca is an indisputably very rich plant, with scientifically proven medicinal properties, it is also very nutritious where mineral salts and vitamins are abundant; But why did this sacred plant become a cursed plant for Westerners? Apart from the chemical transformation of coca into cocaine; because of the wealth that the plant has in nicotine - it represents a terrible threat to the lovies of the arch-millionaires of tobacco, who see it as a substitute for cigarettes; which would cause millionaire losses to these companies, responsible for millions of victims of tobacco, but it is not the only reason - Among other components of coca are altropine, papain, globulin, pectin, cholein, inulin , 14 alkaloids can be extracted, of which cocaine represents less than 1%, as well as: [atropine and spolamine which are a combination of egmines; tropeins and igrines. Derivatives of ecgonine are: methylbensoylecgonine (cocaine), methylecgnoníca and cinnamylcocaine; Tropeins include tropin and pseudothromine, dihydrozipeine, tropacocaine, and benzoyltropane; hygrines include hygrine, hydrolyne, and cuscohigrin. The steroisomeres alpha and beta truxilins, among other chemical components of coca, could also be isolated]. Coca was used by Westerners as a base for the manufacture of the drug; becoming an economic and even geopolitical strategy. The 1988 Vienna conference sentenced the coca leaf to death; prohibiting its production and marketing, except for its traditional use.

The eradication of the coca plants in Bolivia ended the "green gold" period in the country. During the last three decades it was the manna of the narco-dollars injected into the Bolivian economy thanks to the trafficking of cocaine paste.

From 1997 to 1999, more than 21,000 hectares of coca leaves were destroyed, thus removing more than 80,000 tons of cocaine from the world market. From 1999 to date, it is claimed to have put an end to the illegal cultivation of the coca leaf in the Bolivian Chapare, although there is no statistical figure.

The suppression of the massive culture of coca decided by the United States. and the Bolivian government has caused the unemployment of thousands of families who do not benefit from any type of compensation and who have little chance of finding work. In the 1990s, more than 40,000 miners were fired from state mining companies and another from the civil service. The popular discontent did not stop growing every day. Demonstrations and road blockades multiplied throughout the country. Under the pretext of repaying the foreign debt, the austerity measures of the different governments multiplied. The rise in prices and the constant increase in taxes asphyxiates all social media in the country. Bolivians must repay loans that in many cases only served to enrich a small handful of people who also put the Nation to fire and blood, with inhuman repressions such as those of February and October 2003, which caused a hundred deaths and thousands of injuries. .

Corruption is the cancer of Bolivian society, which cannot be as easily eradicated as the coca leaf, since drug money corrupted a large part of the country's population and economy. Although the benefits actually obtained from drug trafficking never reached the country. At the end of the last century, it was calculated that a hectare of coca cultivation contributed to the producer $ 2,990; the same product was sold by the pasta dealer for $ 3,590. After its transformation into cocaine, the trafficker put it on sale for $ 7,055. The wholesalers who made the drug pass through the classic circuits of Colombia, Panama, among others, negotiated them at $ 107,730. Finally, local resellers in the US and Europe obtained $ 564,300. for the retail sale of cocaine, with a purity of 12%.

The prophecy of the Andean sages is more current than ever. Coca is once again the sacred leaf of the Andes, cultivated for its traditional and medicinal use, which never ceased to be something else, for the heirs of the green leaves. Now that another civilization several times millenary, such as China, is interested in exporting and commercializing this medicinal plant such as coca, in addition to having been recognized as a capital element in the traditional medicine of the Kallawayas of Bolivia, who officially received recognition Unesco as one more heritage of Humanity. It is time to remove it from illegality to restore the role it always had in society, thanks to its medicinal and nutritional properties.

If you really want to fight drug trafficking; First, the production and commercialization of coca must be legalized, so that it can serve as the basis for a multitude of products and applications, as well as a food, curative, medicinal, pharmaceutical, dietary plant - especially for rich countries like Europe. and mainly the USA, which has so many problems with obesity for a good part of its inhabitants. We know very well, since ancient times, that one of the properties of coca is to cut hunger. What do our pharmaceutical companies expect to prepare energy products, tonics, vitamins, dietetics, nicotine replacement and many other products more destined for domestic markets as well as for international markets? Till the date; To our knowledge, there is no international agreement that prohibits the export and marketing of these types of products!

The export of coca infusions, such as those prepared with other medicinal plants (mates) and even with tea, would give a phenomenal digestive, or a "coca tea", which would be consumed in the same way as traditional tea or coffee . Only, with a greater advantage for coca -over the two other products marketed worldwide through large distribution lovies- due to its medicinal plant qualities that have been proven for centuries: momentary decrease in the feeling of hunger, cold, tiredness ...

To the detractors who strictly oppose the commercialization of coca infusions; Mainly, the Anglo-Saxon lovies of tea and coffee, under the pretext that the coca leaves exported to European countries and the USA. They would serve above all for the manufacture of cocaine, it would suffice to answer them that if the export is done in a regulated and well controlled manner there would be no such risk. Better still, if the producing countries export manufactured products, combined with other plants, with different flavors: cinnamon, vanilla, exotic fruits, etc, etc. It would be impossible - due to its very high cost - to separate the coca from the packaged bags, to make the drug as occurs with coffee and tea, which contain alkaloids such as caffeine or tetein.

The possibilities and applications that a plant like coca offers us are many, and it is a historical error to have penalized internationally, through the famous Vienna Convention of 1988, this plant so rich in natural virtues. The very Spanish conquerors of the 16th century, who had prohibited the consumption of coca, quickly reversed their mission and, on the contrary, monopolized its production and marketing until the independence of the Latin American countries.

If the Spanish conquerors in the sixteenth century had already understood the true value of coca, how is it possible that the greatest economists of the twenty-first century continue not to understand that the problem of coca is above all an economic problem?

"To an economic problem, the only possible solution that can be given is through an equally economic response."

At present, the only demand for coca that exists from Europe and the United States is for the manufacture of the drug.

If the governments and populations of all these countries affected by this contemporary scourge, which is drug addiction, had a real political and economic will to put an end to cocaine trafficking once and for all, they should immediately legalize production and commercialization of coca and products derived from this plant with the exception of drugs.

A legal commercialization of coca and its derivatives would definitively end the illegal cocaine trade. The current policy of eradication of the plant will not stop this illegal traffic, since it is a problem of great economic interests. The problem can only be displaced to other regions. From the Chapare to the Bolivian Yungas. Then, probably from the Yungas to the Amazon: Bolivian, Peruvian, Brazilian, Colombian, as is already happening. Finally, when production and commercialization are in the hands of the new lovies of coca growers, one hundred percent Anglo-Saxon, and possibly in other continents, as has already happened with other products in world economic history, coca will finally be rehabilitated for the satisfaction and for the sole benefit of those who, nowadays, seek to eradicate it from their original lands by all means?

* Doctorate in history and diploma in specialized studies of ethnology at the University of Paris.

The 1st. Original version of the article was published in the magazine "Notre histoire" n ° 198 in the French language.

Video: Coca powder Erythroxylum coca - Dos and donts. Drugslab (July 2022).


  1. Artair

    I suggest you to come on a site on which there is a lot of information on this question.

  2. Vuong

    What audacity!

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