The 500 Year Fight

This week’s movie Cocalero was not just about Evo Morales as a presidential candidate but also about the Coca farmer’s union that helped to back him up. This movie became even more interesting when compared to the movie from last week Our Brand Is Crisis, about Guni another presidential candidate. It was interesting to see how they both ran their campaigns. On the surface level the watcher receives the message that Evo is the indigenous honest figure while Guni was trying to twist the people with his multinational strategists. Through the movie we learn of Evo’s background and also the fight to keep alive the Coca leaf industry.
“The pilgrimage became an aperture through which to exhibit indigenous collective political identity and national distinctiveness.”

The Suzana Sawyer article talks about the mass indigenous protests that were discussed in the movie. It is specifically talking about the ones that took place in 1992 in Ecuador. These protests were much the same in the approval they received from other places and the way in which they went about expressing themselves. Sawyer explains this so eloquently by describing how the social movement of united indigenous progress has been fueled all over Latin America. She describes also how the indigenous groups have taken up causes that were left behind by other organizations especially the preservation of the rainforest. But, there have been consequences. One that has been only alluded to in both films is the fuel that protests have given to the theory of the indigenous barbarianism. People of non-indigenous descent and foreign birth see the indigenous protests as them acting out in their nature going along with the already engrained racism that exists in these countries. This was seen in Guni when the strategists could not understand the march that Evo was taking part in. It was seen in this movie when Evo visits Santa Cruz and people publicly call him explicit names. In Ecuador as Sawyer explains the “white” sector saw the indigenous as lazy and saw no reason to give them land because of this engrained notion. But, in response as the indigenous no longer let their political right been taken away they fight against these notions and even go as far as electing one of their own a trend on the rise in many of these countries.

“Drug policies that ignore market realities and coercive methods that undermine democratic governance are counterproductive.”

One of the largest debates that took place in the movie was from Evo Morales’ own Caco growers and the policies that have been forced on them because of the cocaine that results from the leaves. One farmer in the movie had a very insightful quote about what it means to him, he says that it is not their responsibility what people in America do with the Coca leaves. He felt that they were being faulted because of the misuse of the leaves. The last scene of the movie actually shows three women chewing the leaves, which is what the original purpose for the leaves was. Evo even describes to the military how a Harvard study has said that this is very healthy for them to do. Kenneth Lehman describes in the chapter from his book what should be done to combat illicit drug use but also not destroying indigenous livelihood and the infrastructure of Latin American countries. He says that they must be patient and begin with open dialogue. This could then avoid human rights violations also. The scene in the movie where the soldiers are ripping up the plants shows the current policy of how they are stopping the producing of cocaine. But this is not an answer. What this has created is fuel for an already marginalized sector of society to become politically active after 500 years of discontent.

It’s been a great semester,
Mattea Sanders