Coca leaf… from Indians to CokeCoca leaf… from Indians to Coke

Coca leaf… from Indians to Coke

The coca leaf, sometimes venerated, sometimes combatted, has always had an important positions in the different civilizations who lived in the actual Peru. Indeed, originally, it was a sacred plant of the Andes we used (and still use) in many rites, like Pachamama offering, etc. But during the Spanish colonization, the Christian clergy condemned the leaf as the “evil leaf”, one of the numerous appliances they had with the purpose of uproot the culture and local believes to impose Christianism to these pagan peoples. 

At the end of the 19th century, the American John Pemberton mixed this Andean leaf with French red wine, inventing like this the ancestor of Coke. Then, the mix between coca leaf and kola nut produced a stimulating and energizing drink. Until now, the Coca-Cola Company buy several thousands of tonnes a year to prepare this famous carbonated beverage. 

From the 1960s, drug trade started to extend slowly on the South American continent and the coca leaf culture started to be the one of poor farmers who wanted to have a little more money cultivating coca instead of agricultural products with falling prices. During the 1990s, programs to combat coca production are very presents. The only one that receive a positive repercussion, without exiting the famer dissatisfaction, was the aerial embargo between Colombia and Peru, stopping with this the substance trade necessary to the production of basic paste for cocaine. 

Programs of desarrollo alternative, alternative development, supporting the agricultural production to avoid a misappropriation of workers to the culture of coca have been elaborated but most of these programs are really failing because, among other, the low prices of agricultural products they tried to substitute to coca’s culture. 

Despite the bad international image the little leaf have, the Peruvian farmers keep chewing it and use it in Andean rites. Indeed, the virtuous properties of this leaf are countless. Drastic for headaches and other symptoms of altitude sickness, to fight the tiredness of the physical work with few available oxygen, appetite suppressant (two of the mains reasons for what Andean farmers chew this precious leaf during all the day), to help digestion, analgesic… We can chew it slowly to extract its juice and add llijta, a little bit sweet to pass the bitter taste or take it in infusion. But warning, despite this, the coca leaf is still considerate internationally as a drug, don’t try to bring it home, you risk to have a bad moment in the airport. 

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