Nikolas Kozloff reports that
Bolivia is going to take on Coca-Cola and what they claim is the beverage company’s usurpation of the name of the Indigenous people’s sacred coca leaf.
Apparently, the government of Evo Morales announced that it would support a plan to produce a coca-based soft drink which would rival its fizzy American counterpart.
The new beverage will be called Coca Colla, in reference to age old history: in Bolivia, Quechua, Aymara and other indigenous peoples descended from the Incas are known as collas.
The Bolivian president touts the non-narcotic commercial uses of coca. Bolivia’s new constitution recognizes coca as Bolivia’s “cultural heritage, a natural and renewable resource of biodiversity in Bolivia and a factor of social cohesion” and adds that coca leaf is not a narcotic in its natural state.
Coca leaf, which was domesticated over 4,000 years ago, is usually chewed with a bitter wood-ash paste to bring out the stimulant properties which are mild and similar to caffeine or nicotine. In its pure form, coca serves to ward off hunger and counteracts the effects of high altitude. Many poor peasants earn their livelihoods from cultivation of the leaf, and coca has been used for millennia in cooking, folk remedies and religious ceremonies.
For Andean Indians, the coca leaf is closely tied to the spiritual world. Offerings to Pachamama, the Mother Earth, begin in August to scare away malevolent spirits of the dry season and to encourage a good harvest. Offerings consist of llama foetuses, sweets of various colors, coca leaf and other herbs. The yatiri, or indigenous priest, burns the offerings in a bonfire while muttering prayers to the achachilas, Gods that inhabit the mountains.