Health and Healing in Latin America: Cocoa Use among the Andean Community

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Health and Healing in Latin America

Concepts of Coca Use Among The Andean Community

The health or illness I found most interesting is the concept of the community’s use of Coca use in the book “The Hold Life Has.” It is established from the opening of the book the use of coca leaves is acceptable, if not strongly encouraged on a daily basis for multiple reasons, spiritual, cultural, or social use. The use of coca (cocaine) is illegal in the United States, regardless for the reason for the use.

According to “Ethnomedicine”, Ingested substances described as “Excessive use of alcohol is considered a source if illness in many societies. Addiction to alcohol tobacco and other drugs (e.g., heroin, cocaine) is almost universally considered to be dangerous and to produce many social and health problems. Ritual use and sometimes use of less concentrated forms of these drugs are acceptable in many societies. For example, indigenous high-altitude peoples in the Andes chew coca leaves for their stimulant effect similar to that of caffeine, and many psychotropic drugs are used in religious and healing ceremonies.” (Erickson 48)

In “The Hold Life Has,” the discovery that the act of consuming the coca leaves eased the pain of Santisima Maria, Our Mother, when she lost her child. The coca leaves were shown to produce a “… Mild stimulant and anesthetic; as a medicine; as a token of friendship and mutual cooperation; as a vehicle, in ritual, for religious revelation.” (Erickson 7) Thus, by partaking of the coca leaves, it produces a numbing effect, dulling the pain the caused by the death of her child.

In The hold Life Has, the gift of coca leaves is given as a gift for ceremonial reasons. (Erickson 1) Don Luis, gave the gift of coca leaves to his companions who were at the grave site of his wife, Rufina Quispe, because he was the host. The companions “who received them with both hands cupped together, murmuring thanks.” (Erickson 1) It is also mentioned...
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