In this film we again find the blood and heartbreak laden story of the indigenous Bolivian people who are suffering the demonization of their beloved coca plants.
This time we follow the campaign 2002 campaign of Evo Morales, an “unlikely candidate” for the former presidency of Bolivia. This man of the Aymara (indian) people became the national leader after having been president of the Chapare coca growers union. In the film we watch as he and his supporters educate the their people about governmental processes and the encourage them in their ways of life. We also see powerful footage of the violence that has sprung from the social issues surrounding the cultivation of coca leaves.
We see also how the Bolivian people view our country; after all, our military itself has been active in this violence. The crowd chants “death to the yankees!” The people desire to maintain their right to live as they wish, without other countries interfering. This film portrays a very important chapter in the opposing “side” to the war against “drugs”. It challenges the way we see our involvement and our mindset towards what we are fighting against.
Now serving his second term, Bolivian president Evo Morales speaks during his campaign. His obvious display of a wreath of coca leaves is an explicit expression of his efforts to fight for the rights of his people and to help the Bolivian people to rise up.
Here is an article about Morales and coca controversy from NYDaily News online:
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.