My Western perspective on coca

My first time on a coca plantation was in Yungas, Bolivia. My face clearly reveals the excitement of being in a coca plantation. This excitement is generated by a Western framework, in which coca plantations are connected with the production of cocaine.

Western media employ the sensational sentiment of topics related to cocaine trade. The violence, crime and militarization that are associated with cocaine do give the outsider, the Western spectator, a thrill. The thrill that enable series like Narcos and other drug-related movies and news items to become such a success. The thrill that allows repressive policies, like the militarization of foreign countries.

With this conditioned sensational feeling I visited the first coca plantation. This particular coca plantation was a traditional plantation, used to grow coca for medicinal and nutritional purposes and cultivated in an organic and traditional manner. I was aware of this, but I still felt the excitement that is generated by my Western gaze at coca plantations. Embarrassing, because my Bolivians friends who joined me view coca as a valuable, healthy plant which is beneficial for their economy.

This gap between the European and South American perspective on coca plantations is interesting, but also damaging, as it suppresses South American economic opportunities and fuels social conflicts.

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