PERU | BOLIVIA: The Legend of COCA, God Intis gift to Peru and Bolivia

The ‘”hoja sagrada” or “sacred leaf” has enormous significance to Aymara and Quechua people. Discover the legend of  COCA, God Intis gift to Peru and Bolivia and its use in traditional Andean culture.

Within a minute of our first steps onto the street, the night of our arrival, we’d been offered cocaine twice by boys no older than fifteen.
They stood on corners and nodded at us and strolled a few paces alongside: “Coca? Coca? Muy pura…” I didn’t ask but I’m sure the coca was cheap. You’d have to be crazy or desperate or foolish to buy cocaine from a kid in a neighborhood thick with military police wearing machine guns and slouched berets, patrolling the busy streets of La Paz. But many travelers are foolish or desperate or crazy, and given Bolivia’s immediate proximity to Peru, cocaine is notoriously abundant.

For the Aymara and Quechua people, Coca has been also considered as the weapon that god Inti, some say even the creator Viracocha, gave them to restore justice between the local people and the conquistadores – the White.

Viracocha or Wiracocha is the Incan creator god, his son is the sun or Inti and the two daughters are the Moon mother, Mama Quilla and the earth mother, Pachamama.

It is considered a divine plant which satiates the hungry, strengthens the weak, and causes those who chew it to forget their misfortunes.
In this legend it turns the most faithful ally in the life of resistance of the Indian, if it is transformed to white, it will turn into toxic, into dependence, into misfortune.

 

Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala or Waman Puma de Ayala. 17. Jh. depicing chewing of coca.

 

LEGEND: COCA, God Intis gift to Peru and Bolivia

Inti and Mama Quilla create Coca:

legends, myths and use of the coca leaf in Peru and Bolivia

According to a variation of this legend, the plant was a gift from the sun god Inti who instructed the moon mother Mama Quilla to plant the coca in the moist valleys of the Andes. Only to be used by the Incas, as they were the descendants of the gods, to give them endurance to live life on earth.

Maria from la Paz told me this story, on the boat ride to the Isla del Sol in the Titicaca Lake in 2014.

Gold mask of God Inti. Museo Nacional de Quito (Ecuador).

Cómo los Inca descubrieron los beneficios de la hoja de COCA

C uenta la leyenda que durante el reinado del lnca Atahuallpa, el sumo sacerdote (yatri) y el depositario del tesoro del templo del Sol, en la isla de Titicaca, era un viejo sabio y adivino llamado Khana Chuyma. Por aquel tiempo llegaron a estas tierras los conquistadores españoles, ávidos de oro, quienes sometieron indios, profanaron dioses y saquearon templos. Resuelto a impedir que el oro sagrado del Sol caiga en manos del invasor, Khana Chuyma lo escondió en un lugar secreto a orillas del Lago, y diariamente subía a una altura para escudriñar si se aproximaban las huestes de Pizarro. Un día las vio venir a lo lejos. Sin perder un instante, arrojó todo el tesoro a lo más profundo de las aguas. Enterados de lo ocurrido, los españoles prendieron al viejo sacerdote para arrancarle a viva fuerza el secreto de las riquezas perdidas. Khana Chuyma soportó estoicamente los más crueles tormentos, sin que una sola palabra saliera de sus labios. Cansados sus verdugos de torturarlo inútilmente, lo dejaron moribundo en un campo, En medio de su dolorosa agonía, esa noche Khana Chuyma tuvo una visión: Inti, el dios Sol se le apareció resplandeciente tras una montaña y le habló así:”Hijo mío, tu heroico sacrificio para salvar los objetos sagrados merece recompensa. Pídeme lo que quieras, que te será otorgado”. “Oh dios amado, qué otra cosa puedo pedirte en esta hora de duelo y derrota sino la redención de mi raza y la expulsión de los invasores” “Lo que tú me pides, respondió el Sol, es ya imposible. De nada vale mi poder contra estos intrusos. Su dios me ha vencido y yo también debo huir a esconderme en el misterio del tiempo, pero antes de partir quiero concederte algo que está dentro de mis facultades”. “Ya que es imposible devolver la libertad a mi pueblo, al irnos te pido, padre mío, algo que lo ayude a soportar la esclavitud y las penurias que le esperan; algo que no sea oro, riqueza, para que la codicia del invasor no se lo debata. Te pido un consuelo secreto que dé a los míos la fuerza para sobrellevar los trabajos, los vejámenes y las humillaciones que sus opresores les impondrán” “Concedido”, dijo Inti, “Mira a tu alrededor ¿ves esas plantas de hojas verdes y ovaladas que hice brotar? Di a los tuyos que las cultiven con todo cuidado y que sin lastimar sus tallos arranquen las hojas, y después de secarlas, las mastiquen…

…El Jugo de esas plantas será un bálsamo para sus sufrimientos. Al mascar las hojas juntos, compartirán todos ustedes momentos de confraternidad y alegría solidaria.

En los duros trabajos que deberán acometer, esas hojas les quitarán la fatiga y les darán nuevos bríos.

En los largos viajes por las punas inclementes, la coca aliviará del hambre y del frío y les hará más llevadero el camino.

En las minas, que sus nuevos amos les obligarán a laborar, no podrán soportar la fetidez, la oscuridad y el terror de los profundos socavones sino con la ayuda de la coca.

Cuando deseen indagar en el futuro incierto, un puñado de esas hojas lanzado al azar les revelará los misterios del destino.

Pero estas hojas que para ustedes significan la salud, la fuerza y la vida, están malditas para los opresores. Cuando ellos se atrevan a utilizarlas, la coca los destruirá, pues lo que para los indios es alimento divino, para los blancos será vicio degradante que inevitablemente les producirá el envilecimiento y la locura.

Esta planta sagrada es el legado que les dejo. Cuiden que no se extinga y hagan buen uso de ella”.

How the Inca discovered the benefits of the COCA leaf

T he legend tells, that during the reign of the Atahuallpa lnca, the high priest (yatri) and depositary of the treasure of the Temple of the Sun, on the island of Titicaca, was an old sage and fortune-teller named Khana Chuyma. At that time the Spanish conquistadores, arrived in these lands, eager for gold, subdued Indians, profaned gods, and plundered temples. The Indians, helpless and unprotected, invoked their gods in vain, and in vain also complained with bitter tears; No one in heaven or on earth had pity on them. Khana Chuyma, determined to prevent the sacred gold of the Sun from falling into the hands of the invaders, daily climbed a height to scrutinize if the hosts of Pizarro approached.

Without losing an instant, he threw the whole treasure into the depths of the waters. Aware of what had happened, the Spaniards arrested the old priest to wrest the secret of the lost riches. Khana Chuyma stoically endured the most cruel torments, without a single word coming out of his lips. In the midst of his painful agony, that night Khana Chuyma had a vision: Inti, the sun god, appeared, glowing behind a mountain and he spoke to him:

“My son, your heroic sacrifice to save the sacred objects deserves reward. Ask for what you want, which will be granted to you.”

“Oh dear god, what else can I ask of you in this hour of mourning and defeat but the redemption of my race and the expulsion of the invaders”.

“What you ask of me,” answered the Sun, “is now impossible, my power is worthless against these intruders. His god has defeated me and I must flee to hide myself in the mystery of time, but before I leave I want to grant you something Is within my faculties.”

“Since it is impossible to give freedom to my people, I ask you, Father, something to help you endure the slavery and the hardships that await you, something that is not gold, wealth, so that the greed of the invader does not I ask for a secret consolation that will give mine the strength to cope with the labors, humiliations and humiliations that their oppressors will impose on them.”

“Granted”, said Inti, “Look around you, do you see those plants with green and oval leaves that I caused to sprout?

I told your people to cultivate them with all care and without hurting their stems, tear off the leaves, and after drying them, these leaves will take away the fatigue and give them new strength.

Guard the leaves with much love and when

you feel the sting of pain in your heart,

hunger in your body

and darkness in your mind…

take them to your mouth and softly, draw up

its spirit which is part of mine…

You will find love for your pain

food for your body and light for your mind

Further more, watch the leaves dance with the wind

and you will find answers to your queries.
But if your torturer, who come from the North

the white conqueror, the gold seeker, should touch it

he will find in it only…

poison for his body

and madness for his mind

for his heart is so callous as his steel and iron garment

And when the COCA, which is how you will call it,

attempts to soften his feelings

it will only shatter him

as the icy crystals born in the clouds

crack the rocks, demolish mountains …

To you, it will be a spiritual food, for them it will be idiocy and madness.

Cultivate this plant with all care and without hurting their stems, tear off the leaves, and after drying them, these leaves will take away the fatigue and give you new strength. It is the precious heritage that I leave to you. Be careful to keep it, And spread it among you with veneration and love. This sacred plant is the legacy I leave you.”

Come gli’ Inca scoprirono i benefici della foglia di COCA

U n vecchio indovino indigeno chiamato Khana Chuyma, al servizio dell’impero Inca nel tempio dell’Isola del Sole a Titicaca, era riuscito a scappare prima dell’arrivo dell’uomo bianco, portandosi con sé i tesori sacri del Gran Tempio. Deciso a impedire che che tali ricchezze cadessero nelle mani degli ambiziosi conquistatori, era riuscito, superando molte difficoltà e pericoli, a mettere momentaneamente in salvo il tesoro in un punto segreto della sponda orientale del lago Titicaca. Da quel luogo non cessava un attimo di scrutare giornalmente tutti i sentieri e la superficie del lago, per vedere se si avvicinavano gli uomini di Pizarro. Khana Chuyma promise a se stesso di non rispondere nemmeno con una parola a quello che i bianchi gli domandavano. Soffrì con eroica interezza le terribili torture alle quali lo sottomisero. Frustate, ferite, bruciature, tutto, tutto sopportò il vecchio indovino, senza rivelare nulla a proposito di ciò che ne aveva fatto del tesoro. I carnefici, stanchi di tormentarlo inutilmente, lo abbandonarono in stato agonizzante e andarono per conto loro a cercare il tesoro. Quella notte, il disgraziato Khana Chuyma, tra la febbre della sua dolorosa agonia, sognò che Inti, il Sole, dio risplendente, appariva dietro alla montagna vicina e gli diceva: “Figlio mio. La tua abnegazione al sacro dovere che ti sei imposto volontariamente, ossia di tutelare i miei oggetti sacri, merita una ricompensa. Dimmi ciò che desideri, che sono disposto a concedertelo.” “Oh! Dio amato”, rispose il vecchio, “che altro posso chiederti in quest’ora di lutto e di sconfitta, se non la redenzione della mia razza e l’annientamento degli infami invasori?” “Figlio sventurato”, gli rispose il dio Sole, “ quello che tu mi chiedi è impossibile. Il mio potere non può nulla contro questi intrusi; il loro dio è più potente di me. Mi ha sottratto il dominio e per questo, anche io come voi devo fuggire, rifugiandomi nel mistero del tempo. Ma prima di andarmene per sempre, voglio concederti qualcosa che sta ancora nelle mie facoltà.” “Ti chiedo che ricevano un lenitivo per i loro dolori e un conforto per le loro terribili fatiche, qualcosa che li protegga nel loro abbandono?con cui resistere alla dolorosa schiavitù che li aspetta. Me lo concederai? È l’unica grazia che ti chiedo per loro, prima di morire.” “Conceso”, rispose con dolce tristezza la voce. “Guarda intorno a te. Vedi quelle piantine con le foglie verdi e ovali? Le feci crescere per te e per i tuoi fratelli.

Loro realizzeranno il miracolo di addormentare sofferenze e sostenere fatiche. Saranno un talismano inestimabile per i giorni amari. Dì ai tuoi fratelli che, senza ferire i gambi, prendano le foglie e, dopo averle seccate, le mastichino.

Il succo di quelle piante sarà il migliore narcotico per l’immensa sofferenza delle loro anime. Durante le dure fatiche a cui vi costringerà il despotismo dei vostri padroni, masticate quelle foglie e otterrete nuove forze per il lavoro.

Negli insicuri e interminabili viaggi ai quali vi obbligherà il bianco, masticate quelle foglie e il cammino si farà breve ed affrontabile.

Nel fondo delle miniere dove vi sotterrerà la disumana ambizione di coloro che vengono a rubare il tesoro delle nostre montagne, quando vi troverete sotto la minaccia delle rocce pronte a crollare su di voi, il succo di quelle foglie vi aiuterà a sopportare quella vita di oscurità e terrore.

Nei momenti in cui il vostro spirito malinconico voglia fingere un po’ di allegria, quelle foglie addormenteranno la vostra sofferenza e vi daranno l’illusione di essere felici.

Quando vorrete scoprire qualcosa del vostro destino, un pugno di quelle foglie lanciato al vento vi dirà il segreto che desidererete sapere.

E quando il bianco vorrà fare lo stesso e proverà a usare come voi queste foglie, gli succederà tutto il contrario. Il loro potere, che per voi sarà forza e vita, per i vostri padroni sarà vizio ripugnante e degenerante: mentre per voi indigeni sarà un alimento quasi spirituale, a loro causerà idiozia e pazzia.”

Coltivatela con zelo. È la preziosa eredità che vi lascio. Fate attenzione a che non si estingua, conservatela e diffondetela tra i vostri fratelli con venerazione e amore.”

The Coca leaf in custom and tradition

earthstoriez| Legend of COCA, God Intis gift to Peru Bolivia
perufolklorico.blogspot.com

The leaf is the most sacred and would find its usage in rituals:

It’s still used for trade and currency. People leave small piles of coca leaves at roadside shrines and use them as blessings during ceremonies. Fortune-tellers throw coca leaves to divine the future. Coca is not cocaine. Coca is medicine, food, drink, coca is fundamentally cultural.

NOTA BENE: The cultivation, sale, and possession of unprocessed Coca leaf is legal in Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Argentina – where traditional use is established.

earthstoriez| Legend of COCA, God Intis gift to Peru Bolivia
Coca leaves are nutritious Coca leaves a jam packed full of minerals and vitamins including calcium, and vitamins C, E, B1 and B2. They also contain minerals such as calcium, potassium, barium, copper and magnesium. Pic: perufolklorico.blogspot.com

Ethnobotany:

Coca leaf- Use

Archaeological evidence has shown, that Coca chewing is 8,000 years old- it is a deeply rooted economic, social and religious tradition in the Andes.

Indians chew the leaves to eradicate hunger, improve muscle stamina, to counter motion sickness and oxygen depravation.

earthstoriez| Legend of COCA, God Intis gift to Peru Bolivia
Coca leaves, limestone (llipta or bi carb soda).

How To Chew Coca Leaves

The chewing of coca is a well-defined practice that has changed little over the centuries. First, the coquero takes several coca leaves from a chuspa, a baglike container. The midribs of the leaves are removed and placed in the side of the mouth. More leaves are added until a quid or plug is formed. From a poporo, a small container carried in or attached to the chuspa, a limestone substance (llipta or bi carb soda)  is taken and added to the quid in the mouth.

It is called “coca chewing” when in fact, it’s coca sucking. The traditional way is to hold the leaves on the right or left side of the cheeks (between the gums). Allow the dry leaves to absorb your saliva for the next few minutes. The mouth will become numb within 10 minutes which tells you that coca leaves are “working.”

earthstoriez| Legend of COCA, God Intis gift to Peru Bolivia

Common reasons to chew coca leaves

There are some medicinal benefits from chewing coca leaves.

Teeth whitening

Chewing coca leaves activates alkaloids contained within the leaves to oxidise your blood. The effect is to leave your teeth a brilliant white.

Stimulant similar to coffee

Chewing coca leaves is a similar stimulant to coffee and can be enough to stave off drowsiness. It also acts as an appetite suppressant, wards of thirst, hunger, tiredness, and pain.

Coca leaves are nutritious

Coca leaves a jam packed full of minerals and vitamins including iron, calcium, and vitamins C, E, B1 and B2. They also contain minerals such as calcium, potassium, barium, copper and magnesium.

Acts as an anesthetic

Chewing coca leaves will leave an anesthetic feeling in your mouth, down your throat affecting your tongue. You can chew the leaves to relieve tooth and headaches, and to relieve the pain of minor injuries and for some back pain. Arthritis sufferers can also get relief from chewing coca leaves.

Oxygenates your bloodstream

When you chew coca leaves, it allows your bloodstream to absorb oxygen more easily. Many people farm at high altitudes in the Andes where they are affected by altitude sickness because the air does not have high oxygen levels at high altitudes. Chewing coca leaves helps them cope with altitude sickness.

Mate de Coca: The infusion of eight * Coca leafs is believed to cure:

legends, myths and use of the coca leaf in Peru and Bolivia

–the digestive tract,

–stomach pains,

–stomach cramps,

–indigestion or

–indigestion and diarrhea.

–melancholy.

–nerve problems.

– diarrhea and dysentery.

– eight leafs of Coca and two mint leafes against nausea and vomiting.

– infusion of 20 coca leaves to a pot of boiling water juice of half a lemon and half a teaspoon of salt.

– inflammation of the tonsils and throat, gargle before each meal with

– decoction for conjunctivitis.

 

– 10 *burned Coca leaves, a piece of avocado (finger sized) and a spoonful of rice, remedy for dysentery.

 

Note: This post does not contain medical advice. Please ask a health practitioner before trying therapeutic products new to you.

 

Pope Francis backs chewing coca leaves in Bolivia

On a trip to Bolivia in 2015, Pope Francis asked to chew coca leaves after being offered coca tea. While coca leaves were banned under the 1961 UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs, it can be grown for medicinal and religious use with a licence obtained from the government. The indigenous people of Bolivia believe the coca plant is sacred. They declared its leaves a ‘cultural patrimony’ in the Bolivian constitution in 2009.

Pope Francis (Latin: Franciscus; Italian: Francesco; Spanish: Francisco; born Jorge Mario Bergoglio
Pope Francis (Latin: Franciscus; Italian: Francesco; Spanish: Francisco; born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 17 December 1936) is the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State since 2013.

Even the Bolivian President, Evo Morales, once a coca grower, now campaigns for decriminalising chewing coca leaves. He believed the pope’s request to chew coca leaves would lend credibility to his campaign. For many years, South America’s indigenous people understood the effects of the coca plant. It enhances their daily lives living at high altitudes. And, these days while travelling through the country, Westerners can do the same.

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Juan Evo Morales Ayma
Juan Evo Morales Ayma, is a Bolivian politician, trade union organizer, and former cocalero activist who served as the 65th President of Bolivia from 2006 to 2019. Evo Morales holding coca leaves.

NOTA BENE:

The cultivation, sale, and possession of unprocessed Coca leaf is generally legal in Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Argentina – where traditional use is established, although cultivation is restricted.

~ ○ ~

Keep exploring:

BOLIVIA • PERU: On the origins of MAMA COCA

South America•Myths&Folklore 

Aymara•Quechua•Myths & Folklore

Works Cited & Multimedia Sources