Coca Production and Consumption

The purpose of this paper will be to briefly describe the biosocial aspects of coca production and consumption among the indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Andes. Coca is a plant similar to the rosebush; the leaves of this plant contain a stimulating narcotic when chewed (Cobo, 1989, pp. 27-38 & p. 264). Until the 1920s or thereabouts, depending upon prohibition by local ordinances, coca was used as the basis for flavoring popular soft drinks worldwide, hence "Coca Cola," and was a major Peruvian export commodity along with coffee. Coca is also the basis for cocaine, a powerful narcotic. At the turn-of-the-century a popular and oft-prescribed medication internationally, cocaine was gradually made illegal from the 1930s through the 1970s. In 1978, cultivation of coca for narcotics uses was made illegal in Peru (Hudson, 1993, pp. 55-56). Cultivation of small quantities for personal consumption by indigenous peoples is still legal in Peru (Morales, 1989, pp. 47-56).

Peru is a South American country of nearly 1.3 million square kilometers with three distinct geographical regions: a mountainous and arid Pacific seacoast, tropical and semi-tropical rain forests at the headwaters of the Amazon tributary system, and, traditionally central to the country and its dominate indigenous culture, highland plateaus and valleys situated in the Andes mountain range (Hudson, 1993, pp. 63-72). A major population shift in the past three decades has been on-going, from rural to urban, wi



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