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coca leaves and reggae bars (viernes, 8 octubre)

La Paz, Bolivia


I took the overnight bus to La Paz on Thursday, and arrived Friday around noon. I walked from the bus terminal to the centro, where I found a hostel called Hostal Cactus (it only cost me $3 per night!!). It was pretty cool and had cacti and other succulents everywhere! I found a vegetarian restaurant called 100% Natural where I enjoyed a veggie burger.

Then I went to the Coca Museum, which was very enlightening in both a cultural and political sense. Coca leaves have been traditionally used by the native people and are sacred. They are called the Mama Coca and are used in rituals, as well as turned into natural teas. The people also chew coca leaves. The leaves help relieve stomachaches, headaches, altitude sickness, help wake you up, and sharpen the senses. Coca crops are important to the people here, both for economic and traditional purposes. Coca leaves are also the plant that cocaine comes from. Chewing coca leaves, drinking coca tea, or eating coca candy will not get you high, because they have to be processed and mixed with other stuff before it has those effects. However, drinking coca tea (which is legal) will cause you to fail a drug test. The juice can be squeezed out of them and processed into cocaine or crack. Because of this, the government has taken away rights from cocaleros (coca crop farmers), even though MANY of them are growing the leaves for traditional, legal purposes. The US and FELCN (anti-drug act) have adversely affected the Bolivian people by restricting what they can/can´t grow, and this has in many ways hurt the Bolivian economy, which has already been doing poorly. For this reason, there are a lot of Bolivian people who are really Anti-American, because they were doing nothing illegal in the first place. I also learned in the museum how Sigmund Freud was one of the first cocaine users, and he studied it for medical/ psychological purposes. I found it kind of weird that so much of modern psychology is based on his research, and that what he contributed to the psychology field is accepted, even though he was an addict!! The exhibits also showed the affects that drugs such as cocaine and crack have on the body, It was really interesting, and cost 10 bolivianos, which is about 1 US dollar. Upstairs they had a Coca Cafe, where you can order anything from coca tea to coca cheesecake...I just stuck with the tea.

After that I wandered around the markets a lot and found some souvenirs for people back home. I met a few artists who were selling jewelry on the streets. One of them, Julio, has a friend who had just gotten out of San Pedro Prison (I read a book about this called ´Marching Powder´ and the social worker part of me wanted to learn more about it). Julio arranged for us to meet up with his friend the following morning for a tour of the prison. After that, Julio and Manuel showed me around the city. We walked up to Mirador Laikakota, where there are beautiful views of the city.

It was still early when we went to this underground reggae bar called TTKOS, where we drank capairinhas and enjoyed the interesting ambience. There were signs up that said ´no smoking,´but everyone in there was smoking anyway. There were dimly colored lights and signs up that said ´love,´as well as this full-size statue in army gear hanging up in the corner. Almost blending into one wall was a bunch of large twisted metal strands that read ´Viva Bolivia.´ The whole feel of the place was really laid-back. There were normal tables and chairs, but there was also a section of the bar that had mats on the floor and shorter tables right on the floor, sort of like the kind Japanese people use. I felt kind of bad because I got tired earlier than normal and went back to Hostal Cactus for a good night´s sleep.

permalink written by  Sara Florecita on October 8, 2010 from La Paz, Bolivia
from the travel blog: año de dos inviernos (Chile 2010)
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Sara Florecita Sara Florecita
1 Trip
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-I am participating in the Inglés Abre Puertas program run by the Chilean Ministry of Education.
-Hobbies include travelling, writing, reading, learning Spanish and Italian, long-distance running, music, and art.
-I am a college graduate who is trying to find her place in this world.
-I...

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