- Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug
From the coca fields of the Andean mountainsides to the laboratories of European chemists and eventually to the streets of U.S. cities, the history of cocaine has been long and complex. And until now the history of cocaine has been largely untold. In Andean Cocaine, Paul Gootenberg, relying on documentation from a panoply of diverse sources such as nineteenth-century medical journals, Amazonian land records, contemporary news accounts, and U.S. drug agency reports, crafts a narrative of cocaine that is firmly rooted in its Andean, and specifically Peruvian, origins. Using an approach that he calls the "new drug history," Gootenberg is helping to replace the conversation about the history of illicit drugs, previously dominated by medical and journalistic accounts, with a historical and interdisciplinary examination of drugs and drug usage. His monograph on the history of Andean cocaine joins the ranks of other recent studies of legal and illegal stimulants, such as tobacco, alcohol, chocolate, and opium, that place global commodities and products within a specific local context. Gootenberg argues that while many global influences have shaped the history of cocaine, the evolution of coca and cocaine products and policies must also be considered from an Andean, and specifically a Peruvian, context.
Gootenberg identifies three "long arcs" or historical trajectories that help to define the history of cocaine. The first period marked cocaine's creation and the drug's emergence as a "good drug" or medical commodity from 1850 to the early twentieth century, when legal products containing cocaine became affordable, accessible, and popular throughout the Western world. He takes great care in differentiating between the local medicinal and ritualistic uses of the coca leaf in [End Page 566] Andean cultures and the chemically altered stimulant, cocaine. European travelers to South America took great interest in coca leaves in the early nineteenth century, and researchers began experimenting to uncover the secrets of the magical plant. After German scientist Albert Niemann successfully isolated the alkaloid of the coca plant responsible for its stimulant effect in 1860, a global commodity market skyrocketed for the new drug, cocaine. Gootenberg recounts the well-known histories of numerous Western stimulant concoctions of the late nineteenth century that contained various amounts of cocaine, such as Vin Mariani, Coca-Cola, and the patent medicines that claimed to cure a number of maladies from depression to indigestion to migraines and other pains. But Gootenberg also chronicles the local attempts of Peruvian elites to transform coca into both a nationalistic expression and a global commodity. The Peruvian national coca movement outlined in the first two chapters is part of larger historical processes that arose out of a push for national self-identification and modernization throughout South America in the late nineteenth century. Promoting cocaine as a "modernizing good," Peruvian leaders hoped to create a global market for cocaine products rivaling that of tea and coffee.
During the second period, from the early twentieth century to the 1940s, the cocaine market declined as the United States pushed for greater regulation; cocaine itself eventually became a "pariah drug." The Peruvian-based commodity networks that had emerged in the late nineteenth century dwindled after 1910. Several factors contributed to a decline in the market for Andean cocaine, including new medicines that provided alternative anesthetics to cocaine and growing competition from coca producers in Japan and the Dutch colonies. But the most substantial challenge came from new anticocaine laws passed in the United States and eventually in other nations in the early decades of the twentieth century. While U.S. imports of Peruvian cocaine declined precipitously during that time, scientists and other leaders in Peru attempted to salvage the struggling industry. Gootenberg recounts the campaigns of Dr. Carlos Enrique Paz Soldán, who blamed global cocaine blockades on local "cocamanía." According to Paz Soldán, Peruvian Indians were descending into debauchery and ruin as they were left to consume the surplus of coca crops that had been marked for export in...