The Coca Leaf: myths, cultural racism and human freedom.

Coca leaf: myths, racism and its medicinal and nutritional value.
Publicado Originalmente: Miércoles 16 de febrero del 2011
Por:  Translated by Google

Coca and racism in Peru 

The coca leaf (Erythroxylum coca) was the sacred plant of the Incas and their consumption among Andean-Amazonian peoples. Today in Peru is still of vital importance and significance as an economic factor, ritual, medicinal, social and cultural .

In this regard, Dr. Fernando Cabieses Molina, a prominent neurologist who died recently in his book "Coca ¿tragic dilemma?" (Lima , 1992), writes: "The profound mystical significance, religious, mythological and cultural arraigadamente coca is not replaceable by any other element in the Andes. The abolition of coca would be well in a cruel act of genocide, murder cultural and flagrant violation of human rights . "

(Photo Right) The ancient plant used by the Incas, although its healing drug was described as the Vienna Convention (1961) and has since started a worldwide campaign of demonization in order to eradicate it, but in recent years Bolivia's government initiative seeks to decriminalize coca leaf. In this effort will add more countries.

In the opinion of Cabieses adds the expert and defender of the coca Baldomero Caceres, who, in his text "Mamacoca" warns that the picchado, or coking chacchado Andean-Amazon has been considered by other authors mostly unscientific as a form of "chronic intoxication" and the consequences are, according to these authors, weak mental performance and social and cultural poverty.

Precisely the work of psychiatrists Hermilio Valdizán, 1913 and Gutiérrez Noriega 1944-1946, served as the basis for the condemnation and criminalization of coca leaf in the Single Convention of Vienna of 1961, which calls the coca leaf of narcotic and picchado or chacchado of addiction.

The condemnation of coca leaf by the Single Convention of Vienna of 1961 has done nothing but add more items bigots the enemies of coca past and present who, under the specious unscientific assertion that the traditional use of the blade generates negative effects on the health of consumers, cast an evil racist innuendo on Andean-Amazonian peoples.

The confusion between coca and cocaine and the "war worldwide against Drugs "unleashed from the centers of political and economic world is, especially from the United States , have radicalized the racist against picchadores or chacchadores of coca leaf .

Because both the Vienna Convention of 1961 and the strategies of the anti drugs are presented as objective the eradication of the plant, as the raw material of the hydrochloride of cocaine, one of the drugs in use in global societies and postmodern century XXI.


Besides its cultural importance, economic, religious, mythical, mythological, the coca leaf has medicinal values ​​and healing. This will medicinal properties assigned to treat digestive disorders, to eliminate altitude sickness, relieve hoarseness and toothache, rheumatic pains combat, among other uses sanctioned and legitimized by the daily practice of folk medicine.

But coca is not only the values ​​cited above. One of the most cited studies concerning the nutritional properties of thecoca leaf is the one conducted by Harvard University in 1975 and entitled "Nutritional value of coca leaf . " In that study, states that 100 grams daily chewing of coca leaf meets the daily food ration of a man or woman. One hundred grams of coca leaf , according to the same study, containing about two grams of potassium that are vital to the balance of the heart.

The poor pay more 

The most comprehensive and rigorous study carried out in recent years about the coca -eight thousand people were surveyed, it made ​​2004 the National Statistics Institute (INEI) at the time chaired by Farid Matuk.

The findings of the study, for some reason were very little known, perhaps because in those days there was a campaign official said that for every 10 coca leaves produced in the country, nine were diverted to drug trafficking .Furthermore, it was said and still says that consumers in the coca leaf is legal counted on the fingers of the hand, and stated and continue so the drug pay higher prices for coca leaf and, therefore, no legal crop can compete with the prices paid by the illicit economy.

The study in question showed that these and other statements were mere assumptions and speculations investigatory basis. Thus, the INEI survey stated that coca production in 2004 totaled 52.700 tonnes.

Of that total, 43.700 tons were channeled to the illegal activity of the drug , while 9, 000 metric tons were intended for legal use. This important legal consumption volume derivative showed that it was true that in ten coca leaves produced in Peru , 9 were diverted to drug trafficking .

The survey indicated that a total of 4 million Peruvians use coca legally and traditional. Those 4 million Peruviansmake 15% of the population.

Furthermore, contrary to belief, fueled racism and prejudice that only picchan Andean coca, the study reveals that in fact 72% of consumers of coca leaf are in the Sierra, with 43% in the Southern Highlands, 20% in the Central Sierra and 8% in the Sierra Norte, but 20% of consumers on the coast, in the urban and modern in the country and 8% in the Amazon .

Upon inquiry, the surveyors of INEI of how they perceive the legal coca consumption, 30% of respondents said that their perception is positive.

At the same time that the INEI conducted its survey, released fieldwork on the prices of coca leaf in the rural market, particularly among the peasants picchadores. According to these field investigations, not the drug trade that pays the highest prices on the coca leaf , but the poorest peasants Andean-Amazonian.

For example, villagers in the valley Vilcashuaman in Ayacucho , routinely pay S /. 1 for a bag of coca leaf weighing 1 ounce. That is, since an ounce is 30.5 grams, the poorest peasant Andean-Amazonian region was paying in 2004 a whopping S/.35 per kilo.

On the contrary, illegal or black market, pay an average of U.S. $ 2 a kilo of leaf change, ie, 6 to S/.7 according to exchange rate

In 2004, when INEI of the study, the National Coca Company ( ENACO ) sold to intermediary traders at the following prices: arroba of coca from first to S /. 140 is, S /. 12.72 soles per kilogram, arroba of second to S /. 130, ie, S /.11.80 per kilogram and the third quality arroba trading at S /. 120, equivalent to S /. 10.90 kg.

In that year, ENACO paid for coca from first to S /. 60.00 at sign, earning juicy profits at the expense of the rural poor Andean-Amazonian.

As if all this were not enough for rural poverty, coca consumed by the peasants were not whole leaves, clean and nice, but almost always dirty and torn sheets.

By Roger Rumrrill
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