Coca at the time of the Spaniards

April 28, 2016

The Spaniards tried to ban the use of coca by the Indians arguing that “it was a diabolical custom linked to idolatry, which was the main enemy of the expansion of Christianity.” However, this measure could not be implemented because for the indigenous population, coca, for its anesthetic properties and its stimulating effects, he allowed them to work several days without eating or drinking in the mines exploited by the Spaniards. On the contrary, the systematic collection can trade a boom without paragon; during the period of the Colony, the exploitation of the fabulous silver mine of Potosi and other important mineral deposits (XVI-VXII-XVIII centuries), it opened a huge mass market for use and sale of the coca leaf. Potosi area, twice the price in Cusco generating huge profits for Spanish merchants who were engaged in this business was paid. It came to spend a million pesos in cocaine annually in that city, while in food, clothing and other general expenses did not reach the sum of four hundred thousand during the year. These figures clearly demonstrate what coca became, during colonial times, in exchange. The taxes were paid to the King of Spain could be paid with cocaine.

Also, the Catholic Church, which at first had fought the use of coca as satanic element linked to idolatry, quickly changed his mind because the church tithes, taxes natives had to pay to the church, were also largely paid with coca leaf. Thus, coca for their great demand became virtually a form of currency that was used for the exchange in the Andean regions of Peru. Moreover, the Spaniards to face bad weather and fatigue of the colonization of Peru and also as a result of interbreeding, they began using the coca leaf. Moreover, also the clergy who had been reluctant to use, through its most brilliant members realized that to approach the indigenous population should learn their language and adopted their customs. Thus, a group of Dominican priests in 1628, was denounced by an inspector of the Spanish Inquisition in its report, it states: “These religious with great debauchery use the coca plant that the devil uses for its big lies, that intoxicates and out of trial, so maddened, they say and do things indigenous Christianity and even less religious. The inquisition must intervene to stop this infernal superstition. ” Despite the initial opposition of the clergy and the Spanish authorities to end coca accepted, sometimes even in an underhand way, being an Andean cultural element that served a social and economic role of great importance during the colonial era.

In this regard, it is very interesting; the testimony left by the Catholic priest Blas Valera (1538-1598), who lived over thirty years in Peru in contact with the indigenous population and the Spaniards. He said: “Coca is a shrub height and thickness of the vine has few branches and delicate leaves them many, the width of a thumb and long as half of this finger. It also has a good not very mild odor. These leaves are called coca by Spaniards and Indians. It is so nice coca for Indians who prefer gold, silver and precious stones. Coca planted carefully and collect it very gently, then make it dry in the sun. Do not swallow the leaf, but chew, like the smell and the juice they get from chewing. Coca is very useful for workers because they chew and stronger and ready for work and is happy working all day without eating.

“Coca preserves the body of many diseases and our doctors use it, knackered, to address and placate the swelling of the wounds, to strengthen broken bones, to get the cold body to heal filled with rotting wounds of worms. For if disease outside makes so many benefits, it also has to benefit the inner parts of the body.

“Coca also has another great advantage: most of the income of the bishop and priests of the cathedral of Cusco is paid with coca leaves; furthermore, many Spaniards have enriched and enrich making deals and contracts with this plant. However, some people ignore all these positive things have been said and written against this small shrub, moved only because formerly non-Christians and now some soothsayers and sorcerers offer and offered coca to idols, so say you should ban use of this leaf. It would be great if the Indians would have been used to offer only this plant demons. But the Indians also non-Christians offer their gods not only the goose, but also all plants and fruits that grow above and below ground, also they offer drinks, cattle and many other things. Indians should indoctrinate to know the true religion to hate their superstitions and truly serve one God and used in a way, Cristina all those things. ”

Also the “mestizo chronicler” Garcilaso de la Vega (1539-1616), son of an Inca princess and a Spanish captain, speaks glowingly of coca in if book The Royal Commentaries of the Incas, in the eighth book, entitled “The precious leaf called coca, “refers to” do not be forgotten reason to let the grass Indians and Spaniards call, which has been and is the main wealth of Peru for those who have handled business contracts. Before, it is fair to mention a long Coca leaf so much that the Indians believe, for his many great virtues they knew from long ago and now, because Spaniards have experienced it in medicinal aspects. “