By Nicholas Kozloff
Move over Coca-Cola: here comes Bolivia.
The Andean nation’s indigenous people have long resented the U.S. beverage company for usurping the name of their sacred coca leaf. Now, they are aiming to take back their heritage. Recently, the government of Evo Morales announced that it would support a plan to produce a coca-based soft drink which would rival its fizzy American counterpart.
It’s still unclear whether the new drink will be promoted by a private company, a state enterprise, or some type of joint venture between the two.
The new beverage will be called Coca Colla, in reference to age old history: in Bolivia, Quechua, Aymara and other indigenous peoples descended from the Incas are known as collas.
In a move that will undoubtedly exasperate Coke, Bolivian officials say Coca Colla will feature a black swoosh and red label similar to the classic Coca-Cola insignia. Coca Colla reportedly has a black color, just like normal Coke, and could be sold on the market as early as April.
“Coca Cola robbed from us the name of our coca leaf and moreover has cornered the market all over the world,” says Julio Salazar, Secretary General of the Bolivian Coca Growers’ Federation and Senator from Evo Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism Party (known by its Spanish acronym MAS). “It is high time that the true owners of this natural resource benefit by industrializing our coca,” he added.
Bolivians would like to overturn the negative stigma attached to coca leaf. Morales, an Aymara Indian, says that coca in its natural state does not harm human health, and that scientific research has demonstrated the plant to be “healthy.” When drug smugglers change coca into cocaine, Morales adds, they change the plant’s chemical composition.
While the Bolivian president condemns such practices, he also touts the commercial uses of coca leaf. Bolivia’s new constitution, drafted by the ruling MAS party, recognizes coca as Bolivia’s “cultural heritage, a natural and renewable resource of biodiversity in Bolivia and a factor of social cohesion” and adds that coca leaf is not a narcotic in its natural state…
For Kozloff’s full article and info on his new book No Rain in the Amazon, click here.