We are Originarios …"we just aren't from here": coca leaf and identity politics in the Chapare, Bolivia

Bull Lat Am Res. 2010;29(4):425-39. doi: 10.1111/j.1470-9856.2010.00385.x.


This article first examines the ways in which coca leaf acquired an important symbolic value in forging a counter-hegemonic discourse that wove together various strands of class and cultural identity struggles in the Chapare province, Bolivia. The second line of enquiry that runs through this article deals with the conflicts that arose when the coca union mutated into a governing political party. Now that the coca growers' leader, Evo Morales, is President of the Republic he is obliged by the international community to reduce the amount of land under coca cultivation. To do this President Morales has had to rhetorically pull coca leaf apart from Andean tradition. This presents a challenge to the integrity of indigenous-peasant based movements in the Chapare because it brings attention to their constructed nature and thus questions the authenticity of the originario identity.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Bolivia / ethnology
  • Coca*
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Ethnicity* / education
  • Ethnicity* / ethnology
  • Ethnicity* / history
  • Ethnicity* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Ethnicity* / psychology
  • Government / history
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs* / economics
  • Illicit Drugs* / history
  • Illicit Drugs* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Indians, South American / education
  • Indians, South American / ethnology
  • Indians, South American / history
  • Indians, South American / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Indians, South American / psychology
  • Public Health / economics
  • Public Health / education
  • Public Health / history
  • Public Health / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Public Opinion / history
  • Social Conditions / economics
  • Social Conditions / history
  • Social Conditions / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Social Identification*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*


  • Illicit Drugs