In his introduction to the trilogy Memories of Fire, the Uruguayan author, Eduardo Galeano wrote: "Over the centuries, Latin America has not only been plundered of its gold and silver, saltpeter and rubber, copper and petroleum, it also suffered the usurpation of its memory."
This phrase came to mind when in January, 1995, the Reuter Press Agency announced that investigators from Harvard University had found that coca is "... perhaps the most wonderful food in the world." I could imagine the ancestors of the present Andean people, watching from their niches in the history of the Universe, applauding sarcastically this new "discovery" of something they always know.
The news continued: "The researchers posed the possibility, still unexplored, of finding an effective antidote against drug addiction and other effects of cocaine, which are found in the coca leaves".
What has been discovered in the countries of the North is the irreproachable truth. What is already known in the Andean countries is still unexplored. In 1982, Psychiatrist Dr. Jorge Hurtado Gumucio made public the preliminary results from his investigations on the treatment of cocaine sulfate or pasta dependence through the chewing of coca leaves.
The book "Coca, In Search of Paradise Lost", had limited distribution because it had, as many other works which are the result of the recapture of Latin American history, minimal resources, insufficient for luxury editions which draw the attention of the great intellectuals of the world.
The Harvard investigators deserve accolades for their academic work, in defiance of the many articles attempting to demonstrate, with pseudo-scientific arguments that "chewing coca leaves would cause cerebral alterations" (Panamerican Health Office, September, 1994). Ovations are in order, however, for researchers like Dr. Hurtado, who do the work of a biblical David, financing with their own funds the most basic experiments, but who have accomplished, ten years ahead of the respected Harvard investigators, the support of a hypothesis which is not politically convenient for Goliath in his White House: The leaves of the Coca plant have untapped therapeutic value.
This work is a new, updated, edition of "Coca: In Search of Paradise Lost". Part of its value is in the elaboration and scientific presentation of Dr. Hurtado's research. On the other hand, the author reveals himself as a scholar with integral vision, when he shows us that behind the facade of penalization of coca leaves and cocaine, there is a much more ancient addiction than crack or cocaine, the abuse or economic power.
With this edition in English, Accion Andina expects to build a bridge for discussion between the intellectuals of the Northern and Southern countries. Until now, the Cocaine Legend has been scrawled by historians from the industrialized world. It is our pleasure now to be able to contribute to the "great book of collective history" with this Andean work.
Theo Roncken Advisor, Accion Andina
* ACCION ANDINA is a platform made up of intellectual, scientific and political people from the Andean Region (Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela). They search for a peaceful alternative to "the war against drugs" and their repressive and interventionist purposes that are patronized by the Northern Hemisphere.