In the Bolivian film Coca Lives we encounter a very different point of view than that of the United States on the production of drugs. We are presented with the source of the drug cocaine, which is the coca leaf. Throughout this documentary we find the stories of many people who are among hundreds of thousands who have suffered the demonization of this culturally integral plant.
Way before the Spanish or any other ‘developed’ culture arrived on the continent, the peoples living in south america had been using coca leaves for a plethora of purposes. For centuries they were consumed to fight hunger, fatigue, and to increase the senses in the practices of hunting. It is used to keep arthritis and many other ailments at bay. In other words, in a culture where medicine is traditional and primitive, the use of every available resource is absolutely necessary.
This issue is not unique to the indigenous of Bolivia. It is a consistently growing problem in the Andean community. The plant was never used to achieve a high, but when gringos and Europeans came in and figured out how to do it, they were willing to pay extraordinary prices for the leaves therefore creating a new opportunity for farmers. The plant is easy to raise in climates that otherwise would not produce sell-able crops. As these markets grew and became corrupt with violence, an association was made between the negativity and the plant.
Now the government is sending military personnel into areas where coca is being raised and trying to stop not only the production but the traditional use of this plant that is so fundamental to the lifestyle that these marginalized indigenous communities maintain. Without a stable system, hundreds are displaced from their homes or watch their dwellings be destroyed. People are shot needlessly. Thousands of innocent men detained with little hope of being returned to the lives that were stolen from them.