|Coca Leaves and their Llipt'a
Llipt’a and Coca Leaf
Coca leaves come from a shrub that grows on the Eastern slopes of the Andes. Though controversial today because of international politics, it was the sacred plant of the Incas and still holds great importance for the people of Cuzco. It is widely consumed in the countryside as well as in the city of Cuzco.
Chewing the leaves of the coca plant is said to help with the digestion of food. The leaves are still sacred and are used to make offerings to the Pachamama, the Earth Mother, called pagos (payments) as well as to the Apus, the mountains. It is also used to ask permission from the Apus and has value in fighting sorocche, altitude sickness.
|Cup of coca tea (mate style).
The leaves of this holy plant are also used to see and predict the times, climatic changes, and to announce bad times.
People in rural areas consume coca far more frequently than people in the city because it gives them a lot of energy that helps them put up with the arduous physical labor required to grow food. As we noted, they chew them in the picchus, which become breaks when the workers can talk about all kinds of things, including the fields and crops. They do a picchu three times a day. The first is around ten in the morning, the second is after lunch, and the third comes at four in the afternoon. They do the picchusin (not pincushion) order to slake the body’s pains and tiredness as well as to obtain energy so they can work. It also pushes hunger to the side and lets them do their work.
Though some are opposed to coca use, it still is traditional and very important in day to day life in Cuzco. And anyway, nothing helps remove altitude sickness better than coca tea or a few leaves. Coca is Cuzco.
Re-posted from Cuzco Eats , Publication in Peru. Article by Walter Coraza Morveli (translated by David Knowlton - Cuzco Eats)