Historians can bring their own longer lens to these big issues of power and politics in which drugs played a dynamic role. In a different vein, there are also plenty of drugs to study in terms of domestic consumption, without making a strict dichotomy between export and national drug cultures. Most countries of Latin America lack national drug histories for the twentieth century. Burroughs often ventured to exotic locales of Latin America as precocious drug tourists and then published on what they found. During the long s, urban middle-class youth in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere joined the rebellious drug cultures associated with global rock music, cannabis smoking, and other youth movements.
This must have sparked many peculiar transnational encounters in a region where Afro-descendants and Indians had rich stocks of accumulated drug knowledge. That these drug scenes germinated under authoritarian regimes, and along the edges of rising illicit drug corridors, may have lasting implications, given the new sets of national norms and laws that drug use and scares generated and the growing spillover, after , of massive cocaine and cannabis exports into urban shantytowns and impoverished peasant hinterlands.
In sum, this overview has served to show the many ways that drugs, in their broadest sense and well before the notorious narco-trafficking of the late twentieth century, have been integral to many of the pivotal developments in Latin American history. This long history, in turn, is a key to knowing how illicit and licit drug cultures divided in the twentieth century and how massive trafficking was born.
Deeper research is just beginning. However, drugs also offer a new prism for looking in fresh, surprising ways at the cultural, social, and political history of the Americas. We will now turn to some new methodological possibilities offered by the new drug history. Beyond the historiographical questions just raised, many with contemporary resonance, drugs present exciting methodological opportunities.
Of course there are considerable challenges in historical drug research: uncovering and interpreting the often invisible, covert, charged, or ineffable worlds that surround illicit or mind-altering goods, or, when thinking about drugs, the pitfalls of received official discourse, biases, and categories. Each of these challenges requires critical awareness and caution to transcend but are not, we believe, qualitatively different problems from those surrounding other demanding recent historical topic areas such as, for example, subaltern history.
It is true that drugs are sometimes exceedingly hard to find in the archive, save for taxed legal exports like coffee, or in institutions, such as a few official opium sales monopolies. But precisely for that reason, and for our skill at detectivesque research that prizes, finds, and pieces together many types of scattered, fragmentary sources, historians have much to contribute in terms of new narratives and interpretations. That said, many of the choices for drug historians reduce to a simple interpretive divide: Does one stress the power and agency of individual drugs themselves?
As we think our own work demonstrates, historians can usefully focus on a single drug commodity through time. But we also believe it crucial to avoid the pharmaco-centric fallacy, something made possible by integrating drug histories into larger questions, contexts, and currents of historical practice.
This contextualizing strategy also helps, as elaborated below, to clarify some of the passions about drugs and their potential for bodily or social harm. Here, for fellow Latin American historians, we will articulate three core interdisciplinary methodological possibilities though there are doubtless more : questions of transnationalism and scale, the wide field of commodity studies, and the sociocultural constructivism of drug experience. Most illicit drugs are concentrated substances, or are refined into such, that easily enter into cross-regional or cross-border flows.
This geographic mobility marked even pre-Columbian cacao, tobacco, and the vast vertical ecological exchange of Andean coca. Scales then broadened when colonialism turned stimulants into pioneering items of globalizing imperial commerce. Seventeenth-century American tobacco, for example, was along with silver and gold one of the first truly global commodities; reciprocally, the nineteenth-century global demand for coffee helped solidify, and globalize, the fiscal, ideological, and bureaucratic foundations of several Latin American states. International legal regimes that began for complex reasons to regulate, restrict, and thus sharply delineate drugs after , as well as the imperious cultural and political influences often behind them, are also formative transnational forces in the world of drugs.
Birthed by these legalistic distinction regimes, the criminalized drugs of the latter twentieth century are among the most rapid-moving, powerfully driven, and globally sensitive economic enterprises. Of course, ironically, they came into being precisely because of political, legal, spatial, and cultural borders. How to balance and integrate local, national, and global forces? The dynamic interplay between external power and local agency? Dependency versus autonomy? Traveling or transcultural meanings, discourses, and power?
Cross-border identities and networks? And how can historians effectively connect in their narratives zones of production, commercial webs, and often-faraway sites and forms of consumption? Even amid the rage for transnational history, there is no one method to best address questions of scale. Commodities are of course vital in Latin American history, a history that is often interpreted as one damn commodity after another.
There are two and perhaps more major developments in commodity studies since the s to highlight for historical research on drugs. These perspectives critically interrogate the genesis of what we think of as commodities, their meanings and value, changeability, and cultural relativity across time, cultures, and borders. The consumption, phenomenology, semiotics, and power of goods are paramount. This perspective, pioneered by Arjun Appadurai, was immediately applicable to drugs, which carry so much symbolic import and baggage, meanings that have changed radically over the centuries.
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For example, compare cocaine's initial role as a heroic, modern miracle drug of the late nineteenth century to both its celebrity and menacing roles today. A second useful tool of commodity studies is the concept of global commodity chains, originally part of the grand political economy apparatus of s Wallersteinian world-systems theory. However, in historical fashion, commodity chains expand from markets to include the reciprocal and frictional flows of ideas, law, medicine, people, and politics surrounding the drug. In the end, cocaine's history demonstrates that the licit commodity chain dynamics of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries helped to determine the formation of illicit chains after World War II.
One way to bring the passions and the experiential side of drugs fully into their materiality and politics is through what sociologists call social constructionism, a concept that enjoys a rich lineage in scientific drug studies. Kindred perspectives have come out of the anthropology of shamanistic drug use, which highlights the active role played by group expectation; powerful hallucinogens are safely used in such guided or constructed contexts.
Tracing the way drug narratives shift over time may be key to understanding the largest setting of all: historical context. A dramatic example is cannabis. For more obscure reasons, ordinary Mexicans maintained similar views of the drug and its effects. Certainly marijuana's apparent effects in Mexico a century ago were quite different than the mellow and recreational hue of the drug championed by countercultural American youth during and after the s or the rising discourse and politics of medical marijuana as tonic today.
Change over time is the area in which our expertise as historians creatively informs larger understandings of drugs. Thus, historical constructivism may help in the task of forging alternative understandings and responses to our punitive prohibitionist regimes, which are now both failing and losing political credibility throughout the Americas.
Constructivism also brings us back to historical concerns with agency and, indirectly, the normative, present-tense politics surrounding hemispheric drugs. If historians contest the idea that drugs per se possess chemical or demonic agency, this returns the question to historical contexts and to the ways in which people and peopled power structures such as movements, nations, or states have shaped drugs.
In the global politics of drugs, blame prevails: on Colombian cartels or Mexican drug culture or, alternatively from the Left or Latin American critics, imperialist US drug policies or an insatiable American demand for pleasure drugs. Constructivism may help restore a balanced sense of historical agency and interaction instead of one-sided blame. Clearly it has been the interaction of specific conditions throughout the Americas that has spurred the growth and persistence of both drug trafficking and consumption.
This vast and largely unexamined past may reveal negotiated outcomes, lost alternatives, or opportunities for change. The three essays that follow here exemplify a few of the main historiographical and methodological trends of the new drug history. They are offered in that invitational spirit, rather than being fully representative of the wide variety of drugs, historical eras, or forms of drug history possible for Latin America.
Indeed, these three essays come together in their focus on modern drug scenes and drug politics rather than the longer-term panorama just seen of drugs in the Americas. As in the United States, and elsewhere, the long s represent a pivotal moment in the configuration of Latin American drug use, trafficking, and politics. Within the larger field of Latin American history, the period has also become the focus of exciting cultural and political historical research, with the transnational Cold War at its core, along with the era's spiraling political and cultural conflicts. Yet this was exactly the period when Latin American actors from the eastern Andes to northern Mexico first joined en masse in the trafficking of illicit drugs to meet the rising demands of users to the north.
The major landmarks of postwar Latin American drug history are already visible: we know that Mexican drug cultures helped fuel the psychedelic turn of the sixties; we know that the Cuban Revolution and the Chilean coup helped to scatter drug traffickers to other parts of Latin America; we know that the postwar baby boom in the United States combined with a repressive Cold War atmosphere to spawn a drug-celebrating counterculture and, more generally, a spike in recreational drug use; and we know that the subsequent Nixon-era drug war crackdown and new agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration ended up fueling the growth of new illicit supply chains of unprecedented scale and profitability.
But there is much left to be clarified. For example, how did the particular rural, political, and developmental histories of forgotten zones like Peru's Huallaga Valley or Mexico's Sierra Madre feed into intensified trafficking?
What distinctive imprint did the predominantly white, middle-class, recreational, and permissive youth culture of cannabis smoking fashioned in the United States and Western Europe mean for the politics of poorer but mobilized urban youth in such distinct and socially conservative places as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, or Argentina? How did the United States use the newly escalated drug war to redeploy or camouflage its counterinsurgency politics in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution?
And, on the other side of the coin, how did Latin American leaders exploit public concern about drugs to justify their embrace of US political and diplomatic incursions? In all the current passion for the memory and cultural politics of this era, the roles of drug politics and drug experience are still largely forgotten. Here she explores how authoritarian Cold War military politics helped to construct a drug problem in modern Argentina.
In contrast to Mexico or Colombia, the country did not significantly produce or transship internationally defined illegal drugs. As a result, more political controversy surrounded urban culture and the politics of emerging forms of drug consumption. During the s, youth in rising counterculture movements began to use marijuana and amphetamines, which previously had barely raised the alarm of medical and judicial authorities.
In , Buenos Aires also became the first South American capital to host an office of the US Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and soon thereafter the Argentine Federal Police, the media, and politicians across the ideological spectrum began to talk of an emerging problem. As Manzano's essay shows, it was a problem that they were in fact actively helping to manufacture, entwined with the larger construction of the infamous Cold War subversive enemy within. This drug-related repression reached its peak but not end during the — Videla dictatorship.
Manzano shows the political as much as social or symbolic processes of building a drug regime and uncovers their authoritarian origins and fallout in places like Argentina. The potential of drug history is exemplified in how Britto's essay contributes to the history of vallenato and its adoption into the modern Colombian nationalist imaginary, while demonstrating the tangible sociocultural impacts of traffickers.
Marimberos sprang from the most marginalized and excluded rural and urban sectors of the northern Santa Marta region. When drug war crackdowns in Mexico spiked demand for marijuana in the United States, these upstarts took advantage of their region's long coastline, many navigable ports, and proximity to the market.
Their humble backgrounds made them eager to advertise their suddenly heightened economic status at a moment when the area's traditional cotton-growing elites were simultaneously attempting to win the region a more prominent place on the national stage. In the middle of this was the regional music, vallenato, which had long been disdained by local and national elites as the coarse accordion music of dark-skinned country bumpkins.
Cotton growers took advantage of the moment to rebrand the region in part through an annual vallenato music festival, while the previously humble marimberos, with a defined taste for vallenato, began using the same music to advertise their wild exploits and sudden wealth.
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As these processes overlapped, drug money began financing vallenato, and musicians returned the favor with increasingly narco-related subject matter and thinly veiled trafficker panegyrics. All this fueled the music's meteoric rise to national prominence. Ward, Peter K. Spink, Victoria E. Rodriguez, et al. Kumar, Howard J. Fifty Years of Change on the U. Border Games: Policing the U. Lives on the Line: Dispatches from the U.
Malone, Douglas S. Dueling Eagles: Reinterpreting the U. Francaviglia, Douglas W. Exporting Environmentalism: U. Divided Waters: Bridging the U. Ingram, Nancy K. Laney, David M. Ambivalent Journey: U. McGovern, Robert G. Varady, and Karl W. Women and Change at the U. Mattingly, Ellen R. Strategy, Security, and Spies: Mexico and the U.
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Espach, and Joseph S. American Guestworkers: Jamaicans and Mexicans in the U. A little later there were sumptuous red surfaces swelling and expanding from bright nodes of energy that vibrated with a continuously hanging, patterned light. It alters senses of vision, hearing, time and space.
Either way, it is expected to have effects on the brain. In the 16 th century a Spaniard who had studied its effects on the Indians of the desert plain of Mexico said that:. It sustains them and gives them courage to fight and not feel fear nor hunger nor thirst.
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They used it both medicinally and ceremonially. Like psilocybin, it was consumed in all night rituals involving dancing in a circle. Indians hunting for peyote make journeys resembling the pilgrimages of Western Europe as they head for the land where the cactus grows. Use of peyote even survived a ban by the Holy Inquisition in If you love listening to the chemistry in its element podcast, subscribe today and never miss an episode.
American Indians discovered the cactus when they were in contact with Mexican natives, which spread a cactus cult in which peyote is used as a sacramental aid. They founded the Native American Church, which fuses native elements with Christianity, whose members are permitted to use peyote, containing a Schedule 1 hallucinogen — Class A drug in the UK - in their services.
Practitioners of peyote religion are expected to abstain from alcohol, and indeed recreational drugs. So there we have two hallucinogens which, unlike LSD, are natural compounds and which, moreover, have a rich history of ritualistic use across cultures and centuries. Next week, a life saving compound. The year is In desperation, his father allows doctors to inject Leonard with a new drug never before tested on humans. The results are staggering.
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Leonard quickly regains his strength, his appetite, and his life. All thanks to a modest molecule called insulin. Fiona Erskine combines chemistry and conspiracy in a fast-paced thriller that takes in Chernobyl and Slovenia. Published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
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