Media that Matters Film Festival : La Hoja
The United States' war on drugs challenges Bolivian traditions with broad and damaging results.
I was approached by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to make a film about a family of ‘cocaleros’ (coca farmers). The United Nations has blacklisted the coca leaf since 1961 and in past years has sponsored forced eradication of the plant pointing Bolivia. With the election of Evo Morales, former head of coca growers union, many cocaleros hoped that they finally had someone on their side to defend their plant and their traditions. From this development, I was eager to make a film about the people who were most affected by laws concerning coca.
Virginia opened her door to me and I met a hard working mother trying to support her family with her coca farm. She lives far away from the offices of the U.N. and the State Department where coca is ranked next to heroin and cocaine on the list of illicit substances. To Virginia, coca is a way of life as well as a necessity. It is used to make tea, prevent altitude sickness, keep hunger at bay and provide energy much like drinking a cup of coffee. And coca is not only heartier than other crops such as oranges or coffee, it is the only plant harvested every three months in the jungles of Bolivia.
Virginia’s coca harvest is what provides for her children and puts food on the table. Virginia and many tens of thousands of cocaleros in Bolivia are waiting to see if the U.N. removes coca from its blacklist. They fear that when President Morales’ term is up, the next president may not be so ready to defend their sacred coca leaf on the international stage.