The coca leafThe coca leaf

The coca leaf

Sometimes venerated, sometimes fought, the coca leaf has always had an important place within the different civilizations who lived in the actual Bolivia. .

Indeed, at the beginning, this is a sacred plant of the Andes, used and still used in many rituals, as a gift for Pachamama, etc. But during the Spanish colonization, the Christian clergy condemned it calling it the “evil leaf”, one of the numerous purposes to eradicate the culture and local believes, in order to enforce Christianism to these pagan peoples.

On the other hand, colonists quickly understood that this incredible plant’s consumption would be a commercial opportunity so they put in place a tax on the coca leaf in order to fill the coffers of the Spanish royalty.

From the 1960’s, drug trade started to extend in all the South-American continent, and the coca leaf’s cultivation began to be the one of poor farmers who tried to win a little bit more by cultivating coca instead of agricultural products with falling prices.

During the 90’s, Bolivia is in the focus of the United-States because of its coca leaf’s production ; direct or indirect intervention (as for instance the program “desarrollo alternativo”, alternative development, encouraging the agricultural production in order to avoid the misappropriation of the workforce to coca cultivation. This program has been a huge fail because of corruption and economic power that, effectively, represent the drug trade in Bolivia).

As a consequence of this series of bad views collected along the time, a protest march from “cocaleros” (coca’s producers) in 1994 and the arrival to power of Evo Morales try to change the situation. This last one, during a meeting at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, chewing coca leaves, shows a strong indication for the revalorization of this leaf which is in the heart of the Andean culture, and so the revalorization of the culture in itself.

The virtuous properties of this leaf are countless. Drastic against headaches and other symptoms of altitude sickness, against physical fatigue from working with so few available oxygen, appetite suppressant (two of the main reasons for what Andean farmers chew this precious leaf during the entire long day), help to digestion, analgesic…

It is possible to chew it slowing in order to extract the juice and add llijta, sweet to cancel the bitter taste, or to take it in infusion. But be careful, despite everything, the coca leaf is still internationally considered as a drug so do not try to bring it back to your home, you may risk to have a very bad moment at the airport.

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