For Guernica, Jessica Camilla Aguirre travels to Bolivia to report on efforts on multiple fronts to legitimise coca, that wicked leaf which, still, so completely dominates Latin America’s identity and its place in the world (of course, not least in the eyes of the American DEA) .
People from Andean countries like to say that coca’s relationship to cocaine is like the grape to wine. The equivalence isn’t totally precise, but coca is a centerpiece in traditional ceremonies and has the status of a sacred substance and so it enjoys, like the Holy Eucharist, a certain factual leniency. Of course, neither its natural consumption nor its spiritual status has saved the coca plant from becoming a harbinger of bloodshed… The Bolivian government has spent millions of dollars and put forward a law to support its coca market. It has shunned the War on Drugs and sought instead to create alternate markets for coca leaf by supporting industrialization. Teas, shampoos, wines, cakes, liquors, flour, toothpastes, energy drinks and candies that feature the leaf have been produced, some in government-backed factories. It sometimes seems like Bolivians will market anything that contains their quasi-magical plant. Anything that could lure investors. Anything that could trade internationally. Anything, anything but cocaine.