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Coca and Cocaine in Latin American History  

Paul Gootenberg

Coca leaf (“chewed” by indigenous Andean peoples) and cocaine (the notorious modern illicit drug trafficked from the Andes) are deeply emblematic of South America, but neither has attracted the in-depth archival research they deserve. Their two modern histories are closely linked. Coca leaf, a part of Andean indigenous lifeways for thousands of years, is the raw ingredient for the alkaloid drug cocaine, discovered in 1860, and illicit peasant coca plots in the western Amazon of Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia have been the source for the infamous illicit cocaine “cartels” since the 1970s. The two drugs’ fates have both had surprisingly shifting trajectories and meanings across the colonial, national, and modern eras. They have also distinctively linked the Andes to the outside world and national political cultures of the three chief Andean states. Bolivia has the most continuous history with coca, related to the highland geography of its indigenous majority, though coca leaf only became a “nationalist” symbol over the past fifty years or so. Peru was home to the world’s first legal cocaine industries, starting in the 1880s, and coca and illicit cocaine have interacted in complex ways ever since. Colombia had the least coca traditions, and was the last nation to develop illicit cocaine exports in the 1970s and 1980s, although with a dramatic impact on Colombia and the world. This largely unknown and changeable history underlies the present-day crossroads of coca and cocaine: will the US-abetted Andean “drug wars” against cocaine continue, despite their long failures, and will coca’s place as a symbol of cultural and national pride in the Andes be fully restored?

Article

Digital Resources: Latin America and the International Labour Organization  

Ángela Vergara

The ILO Century Project is the digitalization initiative of the International Labour Organization (ILO). It contains historical documents of the ILO such as conference proceedings and minutes, journals, reports, and the complete issues of the International Labour Review (1921–present) and Official Bulletin. There are also the reports of the Conference of the American States, the regional organization representing the American countries that are members of the ILO. In addition, the ILO has three searchable databases: LABORDOC, NATLEX, and NORMLEX. LABORDOC has thousands of open documents and books covering topics such as the Andean and the World Employment Programmes. NORMLEX includes information from the Committee on Freedom of Association and Commission of Inquiry, with the former playing a central role in the fight against dictatorship and authoritarianism in Latin America. The image gallery with pictures offers a glimpse into the presence of the ILO throughout the world. Together these sources are key to study the contributions of the ILO to labor justice, the impact of the ILO on Latin America, and the efforts of local actors to reach international organizations.

Article

Dutch Atlantic  

Evan Haefeli

The Dutch Atlantic is often ignored because for much of its history it was quite small and seemingly insignificant compared to other European colonies in the Americas. However, it began with extraordinarily ambitious conquests and colonizing schemes. The present-day Dutch Caribbean—St. Martin, Saba, Eustatius, Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire—is but the remnants of what was, in the first half of the 17th century, an empire that claimed large portions of Brazil, the Caribbean, North America, and Africa. Forged during the decades-long Dutch Revolt against Spain, this budding empire collapsed soon after the Dutch gained Independence in 1648. European powers that had been allies against the Spanish turned against the Dutch to dismantle their Atlantic empire and its valuable trade. A series of wars in the second half of the 17th century reduced the Dutch colonies to a handful of smaller outposts, some of which in the Caribbean remain Dutch to this day. A recent wave of scholarship has emphasized the dynamism, ambition, and profitability of the Dutch Atlantic, whose fate reflected its origins in the small but dynamic Dutch Republic. Like the Republic, it was acutely sensitive to changes in international diplomacy: neither was ever strong enough to go entirely on its own. Also like the Republic, it was very decentralized. While most all of it was technically under the authority of the West India Company, a variety of arrangements in different colonies meant there was no consistent, centralized colonial policy. Moreover, like the Republic, it was never a purely “Dutch” affair. The native Dutch population was too small and too well employed by the Republic’s industrious economy to build an empire alone. As the Dutch Atlantic depended heavily on the labor, capital, and energy of many people who were not Dutch—other Europeans, some Americans, and, by the 18th century, a majority of Africans—colonial Dutch language and culture were overshadowed by those of other peoples. Finally, the Dutch Atlantic also depended heavily on trade with the other European colonies, from British North America to the Spanish Main. The Dutch were expert merchants, sailors, manufacturers, and capitalists. They created Europe’s first modern financial and banking infrastructure. These factors gave them a competitive edge even as the rise of mercantilist laws in the second half of the 17th century tried to exclude them from other countries’ colonies. They also displayed a talent for a variety of colonial enterprises. New Netherland, covering the territory from present-day New York to Pennsylvania and Delaware, began as a fur-trading outpost in the 1620s. However, by the time it was captured by the English in 1664 it was rapidly becoming a “settler colonial society.” Suriname and Guyana developed profitable plantations and cruel slave societies. In Africa and the Caribbean, small Dutch outposts specialized in trade of all sorts, legitimate and not, including slaves, textiles, sugar, manufactures, and guns. Although their territorial expansion ceased after 1670, the Dutch played an important role in expanding the sugar plantation complex of other empires, partly through their involvement in the Atlantic Slave Trade. Until the Age of Revolutions, the Dutch Atlantic remained a profitable endeavor, keeping the Dutch involved with Latin America from Brazil to Mexico. Venezuela in particular benefitted from easy access to Dutch traders based in Curaçao. Religion played a smaller, but still important role, legitimating the Dutch state and enterprises like the slave trade, but also opening up windows of toleration that allowed Jews in particular to gain a foothold in the Americas that was otherwise denied them. Although the surviving traces of the Dutch Atlantic are small, its historical impact was tremendous. The Dutch weakened the Spanish and Portuguese Atlantic Empires, opening up a path to Imperial power that would subsequently be seized by the French and British.

Article

Machu Picchu  

Willie Hiatt

Machu Picchu is an Inca royal estate constructed in the mid-15th century in Peru’s picturesque high jungle. As a seasonal retreat for celebrations, religious rituals, and administrative affairs when the Incas traveled beyond Cuzco, Machu Picchu was abandoned soon after Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Andes in 1531. The site was largely lost to the Western world until 1911, when a Yale University expedition led by Hiram Bingham lay claim to the scientific and historical “discovery” of the impressive complex of white-granite buildings and agricultural terraces. Contentious debates over cultural patrimony, conservation, indigenous rights, and neoliberal exploitation have enhanced Machu Picchu’s allure as one of the most famous archaeological remains in the Western Hemisphere.

Article

National Parks in Colombia  

Claudia Leal

The history of Colombian national parks started in 1948 with the establishment of a reserve for scientific research, which stood alone until the 1960s, when various state agencies created a few parks with quite different goals in mind, including preserving imposing landscapes and conserving water. This rather casual development changed after the growing international concern for the environment led to the creation of an environmental agency in 1968 and the enactment of an environmental code in 1974, which served as institutional platform for the planned expansion of a system of national parks based largely on ecological criteria. Chronically underfunded and understaffed, the Office of National Parks has confronted its weakness by establishing parks which confer legal protection on areas whose natural attributes were deemed valuable. Such a strategy has led to confrontations with local populations living in and around parks, whose rights to resource use have been hampered. The office’s incapacity to properly enforce rules and its attempts to work with rural communities, especially indigenous groups, have to some extent mitigated such tensions. It has further sought to enlist the support of the middle classes and been forced to deal with illegal armed groups on the left and the right, as well as the national army, vying for territorial control. Although parks have not fulfilled their ideal, they have fostered the notion that the nation has a natural patrimony and have contributed decisively to its conservation.

Article

The Spanish Lake: Pirates, Privateers, and the Contest for the Pacific Ocean  

Elizabeth Montañez-Sanabria

Since its discovery in 1513 by Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the South Sea—or Pacific Ocean—had the reputation of a being safe space for Spanish trading and navigation as it had two natural barriers that prevented access to it: the difficult paths of the Isthmus of Panama and the complicated navigation throughout the Strait of Magellan. These barriers—or “locks,” according to the language of that time—made of the South Sea a Spanish Lake. However, the arrival of Francis Drake, in 1579, on the coasts of Lima, the very core of Spanish power in South America, marked an inflection point of this misconception as Drake demonstrated that navigation through the Strait of Magellan was possible. This voyage was the starting event of an age of incursions to the South Sea. The Viceroyalty of Peru, the jurisdictional entity in which the strategic gateways that led to the South Sea were located, was an attractive target for pirates and privateers due to the silver from the famous Potosi mine. From 1578 to 1700, the English and French monarchies and the Dutch Republic sponsored pirate and privateer incursions. There were four main periods: In the context of the Anglo–Spanish rivalry, Queen Elizabeth sponsored pirates’ and privateers’ excursions between 1578 and 1604. From 1598 to 1643, during the Eighty Years War, the United Provinces, along with commercial companies, sent privateers’ expeditions to Peru and Chile. Buccaneers and filibusters succeeded in entering into the South Sea between the 1660s and 1690s, while at the end of the 17th century (1695–1700), French privateers reached the Peruvian Viceroyalty. The combination of these pirate and privateer expeditions made of this Spanish Mare Clausum a global sea.

Article

The Coca Leaf in Bolivian History  

Susan Brewer-Osorio

Coca is deeply interwoven into the political, economic, and social history of Bolivia from the Inca Empire to the 21st-century rise of President Evo Morales Ayma. As such, generations of Bolivians, from powerful hacendados to peasant farmers, have resisted efforts to destroy the coca leaf. Coca is a mild herbal stimulant cultivated and consumed by indigenous Andeans for centuries, and the primary material for making the potent drug cocaine. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Spanish colonizers promoted coca production on large haciendas to supply mining towns, giving rise to a powerful class of coca hacendados that formed part of Bolivia’s ruling oligarchy after independence. In the early 20th century, the coca hacendados shielded coca from international drug control. Following the 1952 Revolution, agrarian unions replaced hacendados as guardians of the coca leaf. The unions formed a powerful social movement led by Evo Morales Ayma, an indigenous leader and coca farmer, against US-led efforts to forcibly eradicate coca. During the 1990s, Morales and his allies created a political party called the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS). In late 2005, Morales was elected president of Bolivia and his new government deployed state power to protect the coca leaf.