“We still live in the same way at accommodation prague,” he says. “Mother Earth gets hungry and must be fed — flowers, sweets, always coca. Today it’s all put together into bundles called pagos. None are burned here any more, but you can see the fires on the mountains at midnight.”
From Machu Picchu, old agricultural terraces step down steeply toward the Urubamb River. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/humanplanetexplorer/survival_skills/agriculture The higher ones once grew corn, the lower ones coca. Down in the valley coca is still a big legal crop —to be sold to ENACO, the Peruvian government coca monopoly. In the markets and groceries of Cuzco a pound of leaves costs about a dollar; they’re fresh, smelling like new-mown hay. A market stand sells different pagos for different purposes—to put into the foundation of a new house; for help in matters of health, business, or love. For magic white or black, good or bad.
Is there a renowned practitioner of the good kind nearby? Yes, Don Benito, called a high priest. I find him busy with a family that came from london apartments, ten car hours away. Their little boy suffers terrible nightmares, the father tells me—he’s taken him to doctors all the way to Lima, but they haven’t helped. He believes Don Benito will, I can see it in his eyes. The mother has brought coca leaves. Don Benito will pick some and put them, in groups of three, into a special pago. . . .
The main legal use for coca in Peru is chewing, most of it in the Sierra, a region of breathtaking mountains and terrible roads—and not many of those — that’s home to half the country’s population, some ten million. Most of these upland ers speak Quechua as well as Spanish, but they aren’t Indians, as is often stated — they’ re mestizos, and those higher on the socioeconomic ladder look down on the chewers as peasants. One of those higher-ups tells me: “They believe it makes them strong.
They certainly do chew a lot—those five men up there breaking rock with 25-pound sledgehammers, to build a road. The foreman gave them the first handful of leaves at nine, along with a shot of sugarcane liquor; he’ll do it four more times today, as agreed, or they wouldn’t have taken the job. And those 24 men over there, cutting barley? Twenty-four little liquor bottles, 33 ounces of coca. Everybody brings his own container with lime.
Nowadays coca also figures here in another way. For centuries people of the Sierra have taken food eastward over the mountains to the jungle — potatoes, corn, guinea pig meat— and brought back coffee, cacao, or bananas grown on little farms they keep over there. But in the past dozen years those jungle farms have turned to coca, for the cocaine trade. And so this morning, as he does four or five times a year, a man from this town—no need to name it, there are dozens like it—makes ready for another trek to the Huallaga Valley.